Democrats point to need for Puerto Rican housing aid

Damaged homes in San Isidro, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria.
Damaged homes in San Isidro, Puerto Rico, after Hurricane Maria. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Florida Democratic state lawmakers want Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello to formally request Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance for evacuees who have relocated to Florida and need housing.

In a letter to Rossello, Democratic lawmakers noted that a hotel-voucher program known as Temporary Sheltering Assistance, or TSA, is scheduled to expire on Jan. 15 and that Florida faces a shortage of available affordable housing.

“These disasters have no quick remedy, yet it is both frustrating and heartbreaking to have to tell Puerto Rican families in South Florida that further assistance may not come due not to lack of resources, but to inaction,” Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami, said in a prepared statement.

The state estimates that more than 200,000 people have come to Florida from the Caribbean island, which was devastated by Hurricane Maria in September.

“We have been meeting and working with state emergency management officials for months, but many of the programs available under FEMA can only be approved if the government of Puerto Rico asks for them to be implemented,” Sen. Victor Torres, D-Orlando, said. “There are tens of thousands of families living in Florida and if just one family becomes homeless due to lack of action by the federal government or those officials making decisions in Puerto Rico, it is one family too many.”