FEMA Wants to Airlift Displaced Puerto Ricans to NY, Florida
But logistics are still an issue for temporary relocation, and most don't want to leave
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Nov 9, 2017 9:02 AM CST
A teddy bear sits on the the belongings of a family whose home was destroyed by Hurricane Maria in Morovis, Puerto Rico, on Sept. 30, 2017.   (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

(Newser) – Florida and New York could soon see an influx of temporary new residents, reports CNN, as FEMA works with those two states to let Puerto Rican hurricane survivors relocate to the US mainland. At the top of the list would be the 3,000 or so people stuck in shelters on the island, which is still 60% without power after Hurricane Maria slammed it in September. FEMA would foot the bill for flying those interested to their interim homes. The initiative would be carried out as part of the agency's Transitional Shelter Assistance program, which offers evacuees "short-term lodging assistance" after a disaster; Florida and New York were selected as destinations due to the existing Puerto Rican communities there. CBS News reports this would be the first time FEMA would attempt this long-distance airlifting effort, or what it calls an "air bridge."

That's because the agency typically puts disaster survivors up in local hotels, but all of Puerto Rico's hotels are full. Once in Florida or New York, participants would stay in hotels there for two months, per ABC News. However, Mike Byrne, a regional administrator for FEMA, says interest is weak: Out of 300 families interviewed Tuesday, only 30 or so perked up at the idea of heading to the mainland. "People really don't want to leave their homes," Byrne says. Meanwhile, the situation in Puerto Rico remains dire, with one ex-school administrator telling the Guardian: "I feel like it's constant begging. I'm a professional woman and now I'm … just crawling for help." And the New York Times reports government officials in Puerto Rico, who've put the official hurricane death toll at 55, are struggling to explain how 472 more people died this September than in September of last year.

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