U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson filed legislation Thursday that would force FEMA to provide housing aid to hundreds of Puerto Rican evacuees displaced by Hurricane Maria who are living in Florida.
requires FEMA and the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Maria through February 2019.
Earlier this month, FEMA announced it would end the Transitional Sheltering Assistance program for Puerto Rican evacuees on June 30. The program provided hotel vouchers for thousands of families who fled to the mainland, and the majority of those displaced are staying in motels across Central Florida. Nelson said the end of the TSA program leaves many Puerto Rican evacuees without assistance or a place to live.
"This administration has failed the people of Puerto Rico," Nelson said in a statement. "If they’re not going to act, then Congress must. These displaced families are American citizens who desperately need our help. We have a responsibility to help them, just as we would want to be helped if we were in their shoes."
The DHAP program provides rent to eligible families to help pay for temporary housing for up to 18 months. DHAP has been activated before for disaster victims in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav.
Nelson said Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló requested in December that FEMA activate the DHAP program. On Tuesday, FEMA denied that request. If Nelson's bill is approved, it would require the agencies to "immediately activate" the housing assistance program for anyone still displaced by last year’s storms, according to Nelson's office.
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