A federal court barred FEMA from evicting from hotels and motels nearly 2,000 families displaced by the 2017 natural disasters until July 24 to allow the court to hear further arguments in a lawsuit filed on behalf the families affected. The court’s decision temporarily extends FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) hotel program, which FEMA had decided to arbitrarily end on June 30 regardless of whether survivors had secured stable, affordable homes.
On June 30, the U.S. District Court of Appeals in Massachusetts blocked FEMA’s plans to evict the families after a lawsuit was filed by Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) member LatinoJustice PRLDEF on behalf of plaintiffs who evacuated Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. FEMA released a statement extending TSA through July 5 to comply with the Court’s order and extending transportation assistance for 60 days to those who choose to return to Puerto Rico. The DHRC responded to the court decision in a press release on July 1.
On July 3, the District Court ordered FEMA to extend the deadline for the TSA program until July 23 (with a checkout on July 24). FEMA must file its opposition by July 13, and the plaintiffs have until July 18 to respond. The DHRC released a second press statement commending the court’s July 3 decision.
Because FEMA has also rejected requests made by impacted individuals, the governor of Puerto Rico, dozens of members of Congress, and homelessness and housing advocates to activate longer-term housing solutions like the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), survivors face the increased risk of evictions and, in worst cases, homelessness.