Federal judge extends FEMA hotel vouchers for Puerto Rican evacuees until Aug. 6


  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
A federal judge has again ordered FEMA to extend its hotel voucher program for Puerto Rican evacuees, this time until midnight on Aug. 6

Earlier this month, U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman directed the federal agency to extend its Transitional Shelter Assistance Program until July 23 for about 1,200 Puerto Rican households displaced from the island by Hurricane María. About 600 of those families were staying in hotels across Florida.

The initial extensions from the court came after LatinoJustice PRLDEF filed a lawsuit against FEMA, alleging the federal agency "arbitrarily, capriciously and unlawfully" cut off the hotel voucher program for Puerto Rican evacuees after eight months, unlike its response to victims of other natural disasters. FEMA says it will not comment on pending litigation.

On Thursday, Hillman again directed FEMA to continue providing TSA housing aid until at least midnight on Aug. 6, which would allow Puerto Rican families to stay at hotels until checkout time on Aug. 7.

"FEMA is working with its vendor and notifying participating hotels that the TSA program has been extended to comply with the court’s order," the federal agency said in a statement.

Hillman also scheduled a hearing for the case on Aug. 1.

"We are pleased that Judge Hillman has extended the TRO again and will be holding a hearing," said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, associate counsel at LatinoJustice PRLDEF. "Evacuees continuing to experience anxiety and fear over the possibility of eviction by FEMA, who has failed miserably at ensuring disaster victims receive basic care and housing, now have several more weeks of shelter."

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