Displaced Puerto Ricans face uncertainty as FEMA deadlines shift

Jenyffer Ortiz, like some of the 1,700 other homeless evacuees who fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria last September, did not wait to be checked out of their temporarily subsidized hotel rooms, as per the deadline last Saturday set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

She vacated her double room last Friday in New York without knowing where she and her kids were going to sleep next. She had no way of knowing a lawsuit would be filed by families like hers and civil rights groups just before the deadline, keeping evacuees in their hotel rooms for a few more days until a formal hearing could be held Monday.

But Puerto Rican evacuees like her were granted a fifth extension to remain in their FEMA-sponsored motels and hotels until July 23, a federal judge ruled on Tuesday. The extension came after another federal judge issued a temporary restraining order blocking the agency from ending its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program on June 30, the program’s fourth and seemingly final end date.

Ortiz, 48, spent three nights in a shelter near Times Square with her son and daughter before gathering their belongings in plastic bags and shopping carts. With the help of local relief organizers, they returned to her hotel near Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. She didn’t plan on unpacking.

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