By Rachel Christian
Several local hotels and motels will be opening their doors to Puerto Rican evacuees after a new program was announced last week that will help provide the Hurricane Maria victims with temporary housing.
Presented by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the government of
Puerto Rico, the program, called Transitional Sheltering Assistance, is available to Puerto Ricans who were displaced and unable to return to their homes due to Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
This is one of several short-term housing options being offered to Puerto Rican evacuees.
Transitional Sheltering Assistance allows eligible applicants to live in a hotel or motel while they seek intermediate and longer-term housing. FEMA pays the participating hotels directly for the rooms.
The Super 8 Motel on Vine Street is one of 13 locations that have signed up for the FEMA temporary housing program. Owner/Manager Prerak Patel said 20 of his rooms are still occupied by Florida residents whose homes were damaged by Hurricane Irma.
Patel has not received any displaced Puerto Rican residents yet, but said he is happy to be able to help them when they arrive.
“We’re all human,” Patel said. “Even my property sustained some damage during Irma, so I know what it’s like when something out of your control happens. We just want to make their stay easy so they can focus on getting their housing situations figured out.”
The program allows eligible applicants currently in Florida to stay at any participating hotel – there are 13 in Kissimmee. FEMA will not reimburse for travel that already occurred, or travel to a participating hotel.
The agency estimated that it might take about one week before hotels have the information necessary for participants to check in.
FEMA is also working alongside the Puerto Rican government to provide relief services to those still struggling in Puerto Rico.
For the hardest hit applicants, FEMA will provide transportation to temporary housing the United States and transportation back to Puerto Rico as longer term housing becomes available.
For eligible applicants currently on Puerto Rico: FEMA will be providing transportation to select locations in the Applicants can expect it to take several weeks to arrange transportation, given the limited availability of commercial flights.
To be considered for the program, a disaster survivor must be registered with FEMA for disaster assistance online at disasterassistance.gov, or by calling 1-800-621-3362
To find a participating hotel, visit femaevachotels.com/index.php.