Saying more than 90,000 Puerto Ricans already have evacuated to Florida from Hurricane Maria’s devastation and far more are expected, U.S. Reps. Darren Soto, Stephanie Murphy, and Dennis Ross have co-signed a letter sent Monday to federal officials urging Florida get its full funding as a host state to support the migration.
The letters to U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen, a New York Republican, and Ranking Member Nita Lowey, a New York Democrat, and to Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator William Long urge full funding for FEMA’s host-state program, and for FEMA to work with Florida to make sure direct payments are made for reimbursements.
Soto and Murphy are Orlando Democrats and Ross is a Lakeland Republican.
The host-state agreement is funded by Congress and allows FEMA to provide direct reimbursements to Florida’s cities for housing, schools, medical care, transportation and other necessary resources provided to evacuees.
“Hurricane Maria decimated the Island of Puerto Rico, resulting in the evacuation of tens of thousands of U.S. citizens to the mainland,” the letters said. “Despite Florida’s best efforts to assist Puerto Rican evacuees, our municipalities lack a sufficient supply of housing to accommodate the recent, and anticipated, arrivals of evacuees from Puerto Rico.”
The letters note that since Oct. 3, more than 90,000 Puerto Rico evacuees have arrived, “a number expected to increase significantly in coming months.”
“Florida’s municipalities and school boards need funds to support the Puerto Rican evacuees,” the letters continue. “They lack the financial resources necessary to develop and implement a plan necessary to ensure evacuees arriving in Florida have access to appropriate housing, schools, medical care, transportation, and other necessary resources.”
The three Congress members’ districts include areas of Polk, Osceola, Orange and Seminole counties that are absorbing a large portion of the evacuees.