Time is running out for some families displaced by Hurricane Maria. FEMA funding, which paid for their lodgings in the US, is set to end for many of those families.
Wilmarie Cotto was pregnant when Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico. She soon found herself living without electricity or other basic services, so last month she and her weeks-old infant traveled to Connecticut.
"It's been rough. It's been a little hard," said Cotto.
On Tuesday night, Cotto picked up some much-needed supplies at the CREC Foundation Hurricane Relief Center in Hartford. It's a place that organizers say has helped more than 600 families with donated food, clothing, and other services to get them back on their feet.
"I see what the families have gone through or what they're still going through. They have nothing," said CREC Communications Director Aura Alvarado. "I have so many success stories. They found housing, they found jobs, they got vehicles, the kids are in school, and they're doing well. But there are a handful of families that need more support."
Up until now, FEMA paid for displaced families to stay at one of several places, including the Red Roof Plus in Hartford, but for some, that money comes to an end on Wednesday.
Alvarado says they've been working quickly to help place families in more permanent housing.
"CREC has been able to provide 13 families with deposits so they can get into the apartments. Some of them have moved this past weekend, some are moving tomorrow and throughout the weekend," said Alvarado.
"I am trying to go to FEMA to get an extension because I'm supposed to leave tomorrow the hotel and they are not willing to give me an extension," said Cotto.
Cotto says she's found an apartment but that she can't move in for a couple more weeks. Despite not getting an extension with FEMA, Cotto says she and the baby will be able to stay with her sister who did receive an extension until they can get into the new place.
For those who've received an extension, they'll be able to stay in a hotel until the middle of March. As for the CREC Foundation Hurricane Relief Center, Alvarado says everything that's donated to them goes back out to families in need.
“We would not have been able to do this without Catholic Charities and Capital Workforce and Red Cross and FEMA and Foodshare and the list goes on and all the amazing volunteers," said Alvarado.
She says that due to a lack of funds to rent the space, the center will close in March. She says after that, help will have to transition from a center-based model to a community-based model.
"We're going to be accepting food and toiletry donations until the very last day," said Alvarado. "We're going to make sure everything in this building gets used by someone."
If you'd like to help families displaced by the hurricane, organizers say you can reach out to Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army.