FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) hotel vouchers expired on February 14 for about 200 Puerto Rican families who have evacuated the island. FEMA ended assistance for families whose homes in Puerto Rico have been deemed habitable, although those decisions are often contested. Puerto Rican evacuees have struggled to find affordable homes and jobs on the mainland but face the prospect of damaged homes or a lack of power if they return to Puerto Rico. State and city governments in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts, and others have used local resources to try to provide assistance to those impacted. In total, about 4,000 Puerto Rican families are utilizing FEMA’s TSA program - most of whom will remain eligible for the assistance until March 20.
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló specifically requested FEMA make Direct Lease assistance available, but the agency has not yet acted on this or other requests. Representatives Nydia Velazquez (D-NY) and Jose Serrano (D-NY) sent a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long urging him to expand the Direct Lease Program for Puerto Rican evacuees and to extend the TSA program through June 1. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ed Markey (D-MA) also sent a letter requesting an extension of TSA for families impacted by the February 14 deadline, regardless of FEMA’s determination of eligibility for the program. The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC) has called on Congress and FEMA to implement the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) - a proven solution for longer-term housing recovery needs. See the DHRC’s letters to Congress, FEMA, and the administration at: http://nlihc.org/issues/disaster