Hundreds of Puerto Ricans who fled Hurricane Maria’s devastation and have been living in motels and hotels on the mainland through FEMA’s temporary housing aid have to check out from their rooms on Sept. 14th, a federal judge ruled on Thursday.
Although U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman of Massachusetts decided to end FEMA’s Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program in two weeks, he wrote in his ruling: “I strongly urge the parties to work together to find temporary housing, or other assistance to the Plaintiffs and other members of the class prior to that date.”
The decision came down after LatinoJustice PRLDEF, a national civil-rights group, filed a lawsuit June 30th seeking a restraining order to stop FEMA from ending the program, which they said would lead to the families’ evictions. When the lawsuit was initially filed, 1,744 Puerto Rican adults and children were in the program.
At that time, a different judge introduced a temporary restraining order that extended the program until July 30th; this was followed by an extension by Judge Hillman until August 31st.
In Thursday’s ruling, Hillman extended the restraining order until September 13th in order to allow some time for families to relocate.
FEMA’s TSA program housed Puerto Rican hurricane survivors for nearly 10 months, amid multiple deadline extensions. During other disasters, survivors participated in the TSA program for at least a year and a half — even though officials have said that the program normally lasts 30 days.