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ICYMI: Brightline pursues Orlando to Tampa high-speed rail route, an update on Universal Orlando’s expansion and more



Puerto Rican evacuees set up tent city to demand Rick Scott's help with housing: Displaced Puerto Rican families who could be evicted from Central Florida hotels set up a "tent city" protest last week outside the Gaylord Palms resort to demand Gov. Rick Scott's emergency help with housing. After Hurricane María caused catastrophic damage to Puerto Rico in September, thousands of people evacuated to the mainland for shelter under FEMA's hotel voucher program called Transitional Shelter Assistance. Nine months later, more than 600 families remained on hotel vouchers across Florida, with the majority staying in Orange and Osceola Counties. On June 30, FEMA planned to cut off aid to the hotel voucher program for Puerto Rican evacuees. Advocates said ending the TSA program could leave many families homeless. "These tents are symbolic of what could became a reality in the next three days," said José Castro, spokesperson for Vamos4PR Action, a coalition of local organizations.

Democrats to demand housing assistance for displaced Puerto Rican families: U.S. Rep. Darren Soto joined Sens. Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders and several other Democrats to demand housing assistance for displaced Puerto Rican families. The Orlando Democrat joined 14 House and Senate members in signing a letter to FEMA and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development urging for an immediate extension of hotel vouchers for Puerto Rican evacuees. "FEMA's [deadline] is forcing families to return to Puerto Rico before they have a home or school to return to and we will not stand for it," the letter said. Democrats also demanded implementation of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program, which provides rent to eligible families to help pay for temporary housing for up to 18 months and was used after hurricanes Katrina, Ike and Gustav. FEMA has denied Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's request for the program.

Brightline pursuing high-speed rail route from Orlando to Tampa: The private company currently operating passenger rail from Miami to West Palm Beach also wants to bid on a route from Orlando to Tampa. Brightline CEO Patrick Goddard called the potential route along Interstate 4 a "natural extension" for the service in a statement. The current rail, which ends in West Palm Beach, is being expanded to Orlando by 2021. Earlier this month, Gov. Rick Scott announced that state transportation officials received an "unsolicited proposal" to lease property along I-4 for a high-speed passenger train.

New signs of life on and around Universal Orlando's expansion property: What could Universal Orlando possibly be adding to its theme park empire? It's too soon to tell, but there was some significant action last week on an expansion property in southwest Orlando. New roads have been appearing on the property, including one freshly paved road that intersects with Destination Parkway near the new Courtney at Universal Boulevard apartments. Universal hasn't talked about plans for a new theme park yet, but it has reacquired about 1,000 acres in the city for new construction.

Putnam, DeSantis clash over support for Trump in Florida governor's debate: The two Republican candidates looking to replace Rick Scott clashed in a Fox News debate over who loves President Donald Trump more, but said little about state issues. "I'm proud to have the endorsement of President Donald Trump in this race," said U.S. Rep. Ron DeSantis. State Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said he would campaign with Trump in his 2020 re-election bid, despite supporting former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush in the 2016 election. DeSantis noted Putnam's absence during Trump's primary campaign, stating, "You couldn't find Adam Putnam if you had a search warrant."


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