Scott pledges continued aid for displaced Puerto Ricans
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Gov. Rick Scott is vowing to keep helping hurricane-displaced Puerto Ricans still arriving in Florida, as state missions to the ravaged island wind down.
"We're doing everything from helping people get a job, to helping them get housing, to helping them get into the right schools,” Scott told reporters Tuesday following a roundtable discussion at Albizu University's campus in Doral.
Scott followed the Doral event with a roundtable Thursday in Orlando.
Scott's comments came as the Florida Air National Guard will send 16 members to Puerto Rico on Sunday for a 10-day mission to assist in tearing down and storing four large tent systems known as “Disaster Relief Bed-down Systems.”
The trip was described by the governor's office as the Air National Guard's final mission to the island after the powerful and deadly Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico in September.
The completion of the guard missions follows the Florida Department of Law Enforcement wrapping up deployments to the island. About 500 law-enforcement officers were sent on security missions.
Meanwhile, the governor's office said Florida Department of Transportation officials will continue weekly conference calls through January to provide their counterparts in Puerto Rico with technical assistance.
Since Maria hit, the governor's office said, about 300,000 people have traveled to Florida from Puerto Rico, where power remains out to 34.6 percent of the population.
Of people exiting the island, 297,000 have entered Florida through Miami International Airport, Orlando International Airport and Port Everglades.
It is unknown how many have settled in Florida or will remain permanently in the Sunshine State.
The state has reported that 11,200 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands enrolled in Florida schools.
A Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles relief center, set up outside Orlando International Airport, has served more than 10,700 people seeking driver's license, identification cards or other motor-vehicle services.
The state Department of Economic Opportunity and local CareerSource agencies have assisted 4,187 people at Miami and Orlando centers focused on Puerto Rican evacuees.
Scott's efforts are separate from a task force created last month by U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, an Orlando Democrat who traveled to Puerto Rico with U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.
Soto's office said the task force -- initially filled with Central Florida Democrats -- would “tackle the housing, educational, employment and healthcare challenges facing new Puerto Ricans in the area.”
News Service of Florida