Anticipating an intake of Puerto Ricans that could top 100,000 from the devastated island, Orange County Commissioner Emily Bonilla is asking the county to consider taking steps to prepare for and help them.

Bonilla wrote to Orange County Administrator Ajit Lalchandani seeking a discussion at the next Board of County Commissioners meeting to consider setting up a temporary advisory board to help meet the needs of an unknown number of islanders who might flood into Central Florida because Hurricane Maria made conditions untenable, she sent the memo on Friday.

“There are hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans living in the Central Florida region. Traditionally, Puerto Ricans are very family oriented and will be more than happy and will insist on taking in family members who are having hardships,” Bonilla wrote. “Therefore, Orange County is possibly looking at a large migration of Puerto Ricans over the next couple of months, possibly over 100,000.”

Bonilla, who is of Puerto Rican heritage, as is her husband, said she envisions a county board working with the commissioners and Mayor Teresa Jacobs that could work with community organizations, houses of worship and other community leaders that have connections with Central Florida’s Puerto Rican community to help.

About The Author

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at

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