Judge extends Puerto Ricans’ shelter deadline 20 days

A federal judge on Tuesday extended the deadline for Puerto Ricans staying in hotels since Hurricane Maria to find housing. San Juan's Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz (L) is pictured hugging a woman during her visit to an elderly home in San Juan, Puerto Rico, a couple days after the storm. EPA-EFE/THAIS LLORCA

July 3 (UPI) — A federal judge Tuesday gave Puerto Ricans in emergency housing after Hurricane Maria’s wreckage in September another 20 days to find a permanent home.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman has extended the Federal Emergency Management Agency program to July 23, pending further court action, according to a release from LatinoJustice, Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund, which filed the lawsuit.

The decision comes after U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin of Massachusetts blocked FEMA from ending the program Saturday. The Temporary Shelter Assistance has allowed people whose homes were severely damaged by Maria to stay in hotels and motels across the United States for free.

Plaintiffs said FEMA’s response has been “inadequate” and the end date has been “arbitrary,” as up to 2,000 people were enrolled in the program on the mainland U.S. on the eve of its termination, WBUR reported.

“It’s inconceivable that disaster victims have to continue to bring FEMA to court to force them to uphold their mandate and not discontinue the most basic aid to entire communities that have suffered through unimaginable disasters,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, an attorney for LatinoJustice PRLDEF.

“Fortunately, the court recognized the severity of the situation and the devastating consequences to evacuees who’ve already been displaced from their homes in Puerto Rico and is allowing them to stay in their hotels – a decision FEMA should’ve made on their own. This is not the first time FEMA has acted arbitrarily to cut off critical disaster relief to communities of color, though we hope it will be the last.”

FEMA spokesman William Booher announced on social media that FEMA will comply with the order.


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