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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

FEMA Should Respond ASAP to Request for Temporary Shelter Assistance from Puerto Rico That Could Help Some Reach Safety

October 27, 2017
Press Release
This is still a major emergency even though it is fading from the headlines on the mainland.”

Washington, DC – For weeks, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) has expressed concern that the elderly and most vulnerable people in Puerto Rico who want to leave for safety on the mainland have not been given the means to do so, but Wednesday, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló made a request to FEMA that could, if approved, help some of the most vulnerable on the island reach safety.  The Governor requested that the FEMA Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program be turned on so that people whose homes are destroyed or uninhabitable can access temporary shelter on the island and anywhere in the United States.  If FEMA grants the request, it could help some of the people who have left Puerto Rico by their own means to seek FEMA-funded temporary stays in hotels and motels in Chicago and elsewhere.

“There is a lot more that FEMA can be doing to get assistance to people in Puerto Rico and a lot more they can do to get the elderly, the sick and the vulnerable to safety,” said Congressman Gutiérrez who has visited the island to deliver relief supplies from Chicago twice since Hurricane Maria hit in September.

“The Governor’s request for Temporary Shelter Assistance is a welcome and important step in helping people get out of harm’s way, especially those who have limited means, who have no credit cards or reserves of cash, but who need to have a roof over their heads to protect their loved ones,” the Congressman continued.

Transitional Sheltering Assistance was turned on for both Hurricane Harvey survivors in Texas and Hurricane Irma survivors in Florida within days of each storm’s passage.  Given the historic devastation of Hurricane Maria that befell Puerto Rico 38 days ago, time is of the essence for FEMA to swiftly approve this request which will help move people out of harm’s way.

Rep. Gutiérrez continues to urge FEMA to also assist with evacuating individuals from the island who are homeless and are unable to find shelter in Puerto Rico.  This is especially urgent for children so they may go to school and the sick and elderly who are particularly vulnerable, especially those without adequate access to medicine and healthcare.

“The Mayor of Chicago has really stepped forward on this, making it clear that he wants people to be able to leave the island if they need to and that cities like Chicago are ready to welcome and help people for as long as it takes to stabilize things in Puerto Rico,” the Congressman continued.  “Evacuation is happening informally for people who have the means to buy a ticket and family to stay with on the mainland, but we should make leaving the island a viable alternative to the people who can’t get a ticket, can’t afford to fly, or do not have family on the mainland with whom they can stay.  We simply need to do more for Puerto Rico and that includes helping some people get out.”

On his second trip to the island, a three-day trip that ended last Saturday, the Congressman visited the towns of Loíza, Dorado, Toa Baja and Comerío where he observed the devastation first hand and delivered supplies purchased with donations from people in the Chicago area. 

“There are hundreds of thousands of people who are homeless or living in roofless homes—many still without even a blue tarp—more than a month after the storm hit, which is completely unacceptable,” he said.  “The water is dirty, the power is off, hospitals are overloaded, medicine is running out, and dry, safe housing is an issue for everyone I met outside of San Juan.  This is still a major emergency even though it is fading from the headlines on the mainland.”

Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.  He was born in Chicago to parents who migrated to the mainland from San Sebastián, Puerto Rico in the 1950s.  He attended high school and college in Puerto Rico and has lived there at various times in his life. 

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Copy of Letter from Gov. Rosselló to FEMA: PDF icon102517 Rosello TSA Program Request Letter.pdf