A group of Democratic state lawmakers is calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers in Florida to handle an expected influx of refugees from Puerto Rico as the result of Hurricane Maria.
The legislators say that with reports that it could take months to fully restore power and repair the infrastructure required for people to go about their daily lives, many Puerto Ricans are expected to evacuate to the United States with many expected to come to Florida.
“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” the Democrats wrote in their letter to Scott.
The lawmakers say hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans could seek to flee the harsh conditions that now exist in the aftermath of Maria and come to Florida, with many of them possibly choosing to move here permanently.
The Democrats’ letter to Scott says the state needs to be proactive.
“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families.”
The lawmakers are urging the governor to work with the federal government to set up the relief centers. The centers would provide Puerto Ricans who have lost everything with one-stop access to various types of services ranging from housing, job training, school enrollment and disaster relief.
Democrats signing the letter include state Senators Jeff Clemens, Randolph Bracy, Jose Javier Rodriguez, Linda Stewart, and Victor Torres; and, state Representatives Janet Cruz, Robert Asencio, Daisy Baez, John Cortes, Nicholas Duran, Amy Mercado, and Carlos Guillermo Smith.