The Federal Emergency Management Agency says it will keep paying for temporary housing until the end of June for hurricane evacuees from Puerto Rico. But it says it's the last extension it will offer.
The government is offering to pay travel costs for those returning to Puerto Rico.
"Through the transportation assistance, we will pay direct payments to airlines to cover the cost of airfare," said Michael Byrne of FEMA on a conference call Thursday.
Byrne said the number of evacuee families in temporary housing, or the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program, is down from 7,000 in the fall to 2,310 as of May 3. That number includes families in hotels on the mainland U.S. and in Puerto Rico. He said the reason for the extension is to "give survivors the time to find longer-term housing solutions."
But Byrne said only about 10 percent of families have expressed interest in returning to Puerto Rico. He said FEMA will soon contact all of the evacuees in the housing program to find out which of them are interested in going back.
Tara Parrish with the Pioneer Valley Project said those in New England have reason to stay.
"These families have been in hotels for months here on the mainland," she said. "The reason why they stayed is because they didn't have anything left on the island, and so if they go back, they’re in no better position."
Parrish's group is calling on Massachusetts's two U.S. senators to meet with a group of evacuees.