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With another hurricane season in full swing, nearly 1,800 Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria are facing homelessness as courts keep stepping in to prevent temporary housing funding from ending. On July 3, a federal judge approved a temporary restraining order that extended temporary housing for Maria victims in Puerto Rico until July 23.
The current extension comes after a Saturday ruling from U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin blocked the FEMA-funded Transitional Sheltering Assistance for Maria victims from ending at hotel checkout time on July 1. Sorokin’s ruling extended temporary shelter funding for another five days. However, on July 3, a different judge extended FEMA’s temporary shelter program in Puerto Rico to July 23.
Hurricane Maria forced thousands of people to evacuate their homes and move to hotels. Many families are struggling to get access to permanent housing. Many areas in Puerto Rico have a lack of affordable rentals and over-crowded shelters.
Judge Sorokin’s judgment is the result of a lawsuit filed by civil rights group LatinoJustice PRLDEF. The group filed a restraining order to stop FEMA from ending the program. According to the lawsuit, FEMA decided to end the program without a comprehensive plan to help transition families into long-term housing. The organization’s goal to end the program after nine months is out of step with other major national disasters. For example, the program provided housing assistance for Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims for 44 months.
Hurricane Maria struck the island on September 20. The storm completely knocked out the electrical grid and disrupted water service for half of the island. As a result of the storm and its aftermath claimed nearly 5,000 lives. Thousands of residents moved to the U.S. mainland, both temporarily and permanently.
The victims of Hurricane Maria will face irreparable harm by facing homeless. Sorokin notes in his ruling, the “specter of many sick individuals without a home of their being rendered homeless with the resulting drain on other public resources in addition to the possible human consequences.”
FEMA is currently working to notify hotels that the TSA program of the extension.
More than 7,000 families benefited from the program since Oct. 30, 2017. In addition, FEMA extended the program several times since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the island days apart last September.
The Carlson Law Firm Can Help
If you are currently living in Puerto Rico and struggling to recover from Hurricane Maria, The Carlson Law Firm can help. If you are dealing with flood insurance denials or have received an undervalued claim we can help you fight the flood insurance company to get the compensation you deserve.