Saying evacuees from ravaged Puerto Rico already are arriving “and those numbers will soon grow,” Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs announced Thursday that she’s pursuing several initiatives to help them and will open the discussion to the Board of County Commissioners next Tuesday.
In a memorandum to the county commissioners, Jacobs said she’s speaking with Gov. Rick Scott and others to identify resources and issues, and is pursuing some specific ideas, like setting up a Puerto Rican evacuees assistance center at Orlando International Airport.
Jacobs’ memo comes after several of the commissioners, notably Pete Clarke, Emily Bonilla, and Jennifer Thompson, have called for more help for Puerto Rico, where almost all of the 3.4 million residents living in stark conditions following Hurricane Maria. Many have family and friends in Central Florida, and large but unknown numbers are expected to come to Florida, at least temporarily, to live while the island undergoes what all expect to be a long and painful rebuilding process.
“Please accept my sincere thanks for your continued input and efforts regarding Hurricane Maria relief, and for your heartfelt concern on behalf of our beloved American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico,” Jacobs opened her memo.
Among Jacobs initial initiatives and suggestions:
– The county will be launching a webpage linked from the county’s homepage, “Puerto Rico Disaster Relief: United We Can Do More,” which will detail relief efforts and resources available for Puerto Rico and for Puerto Ricans coming to Central Florida.
– As a board member of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, which runs Orlando International Airport, she and Osceola County Manager Don Fisher asked the airport to find space for a Puerto Rico Information Assistance Center for arriving evacuees.
– Anticipating impacts on schools, hospitals, and social service agencies, among others, the mayor’s office is reaching out to them to begin planning tougher.
– She also addressed the Florida Association of Counties Urban Caucus requesting to unite in seeking state and federal assistance.
– She is setting aside a portion of next Tuesday’s meeting to discuss the issues.