“I also request that a complete review of these Puerto Rican families’ cases and circumstances be reviewed on a case-by-case basis before they are displaced,” Rep. Bob Cortes said in a letter. (Jordan Krumbine / Orlando Sentinel)
State Rep. Bob Cortes urged FEMA to work with the Puerto Rican government to extend housing assistance programs for evacuees in Florida whose aid could run out as early as next week.
“I am writing to urge to work with Governor Ricardo Rosselló and other Puerto Rican officials to extend the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program that is due to expire next week,” Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, said in a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long.
The TSA program, which funds temporary hotel rooms for about 1,428 families in Florida, is set to expire on March 20. But in a call with the press on Tuesday, FEMA said about 79 applicants in the state would not receive an extension past Feb. 14.
“I certainly understand the temporary nature of programs like these and I support the need for wise stewardship of taxpayer dollars,” Cortes wrote in the letter. “However, if this program lapses, dozens of Puerto Rican families in Florida will find themselves homeless.”
Cortes said if immediate aid cannot be extended, the burden will fall on “state and local governments and other nonprofit agencies,” a responsibility that he said is too heavy for the state to carry without assistance from the federal government.
“I also request that a complete review of these Puerto Rican families’ cases and circumstances be reviewed on a case-by-case basis before they are displaced,” Cortes said.
On Tuesday, FEMA spokespeople said housing aid for island evacuees in Florida has to be requested by Rosselló and that the government of Puerto Rico would have to assume part of the expenses. The spokespeople did not say how much it could cost the island.
Cortes has previously supported FEMA’s Direct Lease housing program, which could pay up to 18 months of rent directly for qualifying families who have fled the island due to Hurricane Maria.
The Republican legislator joins a list of other Florida lawmakers — includingfellow Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee — who have asked FEMA and the governor of Puerto Rico to support extensions of the housing assistance programs.
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