Puerto Ricans

60 posts

FEMA, Housing and the Loss of Wealth

A FEMA worker approaches a heavily damaged home after Hurricanes Irma and María. The loss of valuable assets and, hence, wealth will have a long-term impact on the Puerto Rican community. / FEMA Facebook

Puerto Rico hurricane evacuees in the Orlando area will begin fleeing FEMA-sponsored short-term housing as soon as next week, with others to follow in March 20.

Calls began months ago to pressure the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the deadline for the dozens of people who are still grappling with the sudden homelessness brought on by two back-to-back hurricanes.

FEMA states the program was temporary, which is true, and this week published a press release with the condescending title, “How to Create Permanent Housing Plans,” as if the agency were addressing ignorant people. Item No. 3: “Achieve long-term housing goals in a reasonable time frame.”

If only it were that easy.

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Hurricane Supplies May Go to Waste

Supplies collected by Iniciativa Puertorriqueña for Puerto Rico relief efforts are held at a Goldenrod  Road warehouse owned by the Orange County government. The merchandise must be removed by 5 p.m. Monday. /Maria Padilla. Photo dated December 2017

Puerto Rico hurricane victims may never see thousands of pounds of food and other supplies collected in Central Florida as part of relief efforts.

Earlier this week, news reports indicated that hundreds of boxes of supplies at the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Office (PRFAA) in Kissimmee were potentially contaminated by rodents – supplies that should have made it to the island a while ago. The office said it sent 10,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico, with remaining supplies to be distributed locally.

But the office, with a budget of about $200,000 a year and a few employees, closed its doors over a week ago. It probably should have been shuttered eons ago due to Puerto Rico’s ongoing steep money problems. It seems likely the rat-infested supplies must be thrown out.

But, wait, there’s more.

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Organizations Keen to Register Puerto Rican Voters

Never have so many organizations been so keen to register Puerto Rican voters.

For partisan voices eager to tilt registration rolls in the critical swing state of Florida, there is gold in them there newly arrived Puerto Ricans. For the partisans who fear they may lose out, there is a race to convince Puerto Rican voters of the kinship between the two.

Florida “estimates that nearly 300,000 U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico fed to Florida after Hurricane María. Some will stay, register and vote. … If Florida turns as reliably blue as California and New York, Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, may never win another presidential election,” wrote Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal  last week.

All this is happening before many Puerto Ricans have settled into permanent residences. Before many have solicited permanent, not temporary, Florida identifications needed to register to vote, by the way. But most important, before the trauma of fleeing a hurricane-wracked Puerto Rico empty-handed is digested or properly dealt with.

Activists and organizations who really want to help Puerto Ricans should start with basic necessities. It may surprise people to learn that voting is not a basic need. In fact, there is no election until the August primaries, seven months away. Voting participation is a lot like concern for the environment: Once fundamental needs are addressed you can turn your gaze elsewhere. The Puerto Rican evacuees are far from reaching this goal. Plus, they are very much concerned about family back home.

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Gov. Rosselló: We’re Coming After You

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló addresses the capacity crowd at a town hall in Kissimmee to kick off mobilization of Puerto Rican voters. /Maria Padilla

KISSIMMEE – In a speech in the the heart of the nation’s Puerto Rican diaspora, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló vowed to sic Puerto Rican voters on political candidates who do not support the island’s hurricane reconstruction efforts after devastating losses inflicted by Hurricanes María and Irma.

Rosselló, who was joined at his first town hall meeting in Central Florida by Sen. Bill Nelson, Cong. Darren Soto, Florida Gov. Rick Scott  and Kissimmee Mayor José Alvarez, said his appearance before a 400-plus capacity crowd at Kissimmee’s civic center was more than an event.

“It is the start of an organization” to push and unify the stateside Puerto Rican population to register to vote and cast ballots not just in Florida, but also in Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Ohio, among other states.

It was time, Rosselló said, to let elected officials know that “there are consequences” for voting against Puerto Rico’s interests, as Congress recently did in the federal tax reform that will make it costlier for companies to operate in Puerto Rico, dealing an economic blow to the island.

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