Once Again, FEMA Extends Temporary Housing Program For Evacuees, But For How Long?

Jul 3, 2018

Advocates for families relocated from Puerto Rico want the Federal Emergency Management Agency to come up with a longer-term solution for Transitional Shelter Assistance for Hurricane Maria evacuees.

“These people have gone through so much trauma and displacement and to wait every day to see if they’re going to have a place to lay their heads on -- or that they’re worried about their children -- is unfair and un-humanistic,” said Paola Serrecchia, director of advocacy and community engagement for Junta for Progressive Action.

FEMA’s latest deadline for families to leave temporary hotel accommodation was June 30. But, a federal judge in Massachusetts ordered the agency to keep the program going.

On Tuesday, FEMA announced it would extend the TSA program for evacuees until July 23.

Senator Richard Blumenthal said that FEMA should stop imposing what he said were arbitrary deadlines and instead activate its Disaster Housing Assistance Program to help out the families.

Back in 2005, FEMA provided 18 months of rental assistance to Katrina survivors through a similar program.

“If the Disaster Housing Assistance Program was good enough for Katrina, why isn’t it good enough for Maria?” Blumenthal said Tuesday.

Senator Richard Blumenthal addressed reporters and concerned citizens regarding short and long-term housing solutions for Puerto Rican evacuee families on July 3 at Hartford's Red Roof Inn Plus.
Credit Frankie Graziano / Connecticut Public Radio

Melvin Medina, a member of the Connecticut Puerto Rican Agenda’s board, said that evacuees shouldn’t suffer because of something they had no control over.

“They have been resilient,” Medina said. “They are survivors of a crippling natural disaster. They are also survivors of our government’s inadequate disaster recovery effort that has crippled their progress.”

Two of Connecticut’s 21 evacuee families still enrolled in the TSA program are living at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Hartford. That’s where Blumenthal on Tuesday called on the federal government to use its resources for a long-term solution to the evacuee housing crisis.

“We have long passed the point where temporary assistance was appropriate,” Blumenthal said. “Long ago, there should have been HUD vouchers or Disaster Housing Assistance Program relief -- other longer-term more permanent measures to assist these families.”

Because Blumenthal said FEMA won’t activate DHAP funding, he’s co-sponsoring a measure in the United States Senate that would provide $160 billion to communities that took in evacuees. Part of that money would also go directly to the island of Puerto Rico.