With just hours before a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deadline hits Puerto Rican hurricane survivors—ending the Transitional Sheltering Assistance and pushing roughly 1,800 families out of their temporary housing—Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Friday is urging the agency to extend the cutoff date for the assistance and admonishing its failure to activate a longer-term housing assistance program.
She also called it "shameful" that Republicans thwarted a legislative effort that would have offered needed relief:
Tomorrow, thousands of Puerto Rican evacuees will lose federal housing assistance & many will be left homeless. @FEMA refuses to set up the longer-term disaster housing program used after Katrina & Sandy. And the GOP is blocking legislation that would do it. This is shameful. pic.twitter.com/AV4U2i5BV1— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) June 29, 2018
"They have nowhere to go," Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) said Thursday on the Senate floor. "Some of them have lost everything because of these storms."
"Too many are still unable to find work or to find affordable housing. … For many of them, the only thing that they have is the help that FEMA is providing," he added.
Of the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP), which would provide longer-term assistance, not being activated, he asked, "If it was good enough for the people fleeing New Orleans in Hurricane Katrina, why isn't it good enough for the people that are equally devastated now in Florida having fled the deplorable conditions in their native island, our fellow U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico?"
His relief bill was rejected.
Citing the "dire need" still facing Puerto Ricans nine months after Hurricane Maria hit the island, Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) joined Warren in spearheading a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Ben Carson.
"FEMA's June 30th TSA deadline is forcing families to return to Puerto Rico before they have a home or school to return to and we will not stand for it," the bicameral letter (pdf), also signed by over a dozen lawmakers including Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), states.
It goes on to say that the "assistance provided by FEMA and HUD has not amply addressed the island's vast infrastructural devastation."
"DHAP has historically been activated within two weeks of a disaster, while Puerto Ricans have waited over eight months for relief," the lawmakers write.
"Activate DHAP, extend the June 30the deadline, and help heal Puerto Rico," the letter concludes.