United States

Housing Benefits Extension to Puerto Rican Families Halted

Connecticut's governor and two U.S. senators want the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reverse a surprise decision that rescinds temporary housing benefits to 36 Puerto Rican families living in the state after being displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The Office of Policy Management (OPM) released up to $100,000 worth of funds within the Department of Housing's budget to keep these affected families in place while FEMA reconsiders its decision on Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA). 

Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the state was informed about the FEMA decision at noon on Thursday, which came three days after FEMA told the state it was approving an earlier request to extend Transitional Shelter Assistance through February 14. 

Malloy said FEMA told his administration on Thursday that the extension was an error by the agency. 

He said the families then began receiving orders at 2 p.m. to leave their hotels immediately. 

In a letter to the FEMA administrator, Malloy urges him to "correct this egregious error" and immediately grant the extension. 

Hartford Mayor Luke Bronin condemned FEMA’s decision Thursday, saying it put “multiple families displaced by Hurricane Maria at risk of homelessness in the middle of winter.” 

“The City has been working with the families directly, and we have also coordinated with the State’s 211 system and other agencies to ensure that these families will have shelter in the coming days. We will continue do everything we can to ensure that these families have a safe place to stay as they rebuild their lives, and we urge FEMA to act immediately to honor its commitment and do the right thing for these families,” Bronin said. 

On Friday, Kelly Donnelly, director of communications for Malloy, said the governor’s office and the OPM identified funds and released them to the state Department of Housing. 

“Working with OPM, the governor’s office identified additional monies to release to the state department of housing to put toward assisting the 36 families in the Hartford area to continue their emergency housing,” Donnelly said. 

She said it’s not a lot of money, but it will go toward the families’ hotel bills and the governor is asking for a direct conversation with FEMA. 

William Booher, the public affairs director, said in a statement that FEMA provided an extension through Sunday so families have additional time to find housing and the agency will work with the state and disaster survivors. 

“As of January 19, FEMA has approved a temporary extension of Transitional Sheltering Assistance through Sunday, Jan. 21 for the 36 families determined to be ineligible for further assistance. The families will have to check out of the hotel on Monday, Jan. 22. This short-term extension will allow these families additional time to identify another housing solution. FEMA will continue to work with the state of Connecticut and disaster survivors to provide support to those with a confirmed need for continued assistance,” Booher said in a statement.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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