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Puerto Rico

More than three months after Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico, there are thousands on the island still without power and basic necessities and nearly 300,000 people have come to Florida seeking refuge.

FEMA is extending housing assistance for Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The extension lasts through March 20. Puerto Rico’s government asked for the extension of the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program as more than a third of the island remains without power.

But the Rev. Jose Nieves of the First United Methodist Church of Kissimmee says many families and hotels where they are staying have not yet gotten the word.

One hundred days ago, powerful Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico leaving the island severely crippled and the more than 3 million U.S. citizens desperate for help.

Now, Puerto Ricans on the island and U.S. mainland are feeling angry and the lack of progress and they are organizing to demand help for Puerto Rico.

Though life has improved for some Puerto Ricans on the island more than three months since Maria hit, the Caribbean island is still in recovery mode.

U.S. Congressmen From Florida To Visit Puerto Rico

Dec 26, 2017

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Rep. Darren Soto are traveling to Puerto Rico Wednesday to get a firsthand look at on-going recovery from the Sept. 20 hit by deadly and powerful Hurricane Maria.

According to Nelson's office, the senator will return to Florida Wednesday night after meeting separately with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and the media. Nelson is also slated to meet with members of the Puerto Rican community in the Osceola County Commission Chamber in Kissimmee on Thursday.

For weeks, Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and his associates tried to play the Washington game, meeting with politicians and lobbyists across Capitol Hill to argue against provisions in the tax overhaul bill that treat the U.S. territory like a foreign country.

It's no secret that we've had a rough fall and winter with natural disasters. Even as we write this, fires burn in Southern California, adding to the previous wildfires in the northern part of the state that burned over 245,000 acres in October.

Hurricanes Irma and Harvey devastated communities across Florida and Texas, while touching communities in Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, the Carolinas and Louisiana.

Nearly 10,000 students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have enrolled in Florida’s public schools since hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated the Caribbean.

Education leaders haven’t yet quantified the financial impact of absorbing them into schools. But it’ll likely take a combination of funding from the state and federal governments to cover the costs.

While visiting a Coconut Grove elementary school late last month, Gov. Rick Scott said the state has reserves that could be used to help.

This Friday, Dec. 15, is the day Puerto Rico’s governor pledged to have all the island’s electric power restored. That’s not going to happen – but some Puerto Ricans have gotten power back after their long, long night in the dark.

Seven humanitarian groups from all over the country came together Sunday under the umbrella of the Puerto Rico Recovery Alliance to bring much-needed aid to the island.  

Ever since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the groups of volunteers that make up the alliance have been making individual trips to the U.S. territory to help.

Their mission on Sunday was to deliver 30,000 pounds of medical supplies to hospitals in Puerto Rico — and evacuate about 80 people in need of medical assistance or other support they can’t get on the island.

Yuisa Rios / FEMA

More than two months after Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico, thousands are still fleeing the island and many are coming to Florida.

This week on Florida Matters we'll discuss the impact of the Puerto Rican migration to Florida during the latest edition of our monthly news roundtable.


Displaced Puerto Ricans Face Obstacles Getting Health Care

Nov 21, 2017

The federal government has granted people affected by the devastating hurricanes that wracked coastal states and Puerto Rico 15 extra days to sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

But Puerto Ricans who fled to the mainland after the destruction face problems well beyond timing.

Steven Shepard / FEMA

This week on Florida Matters we're hosting another edition of our monthly news roundtable. We'll discuss how the Puerto Rican migration to Florida after Hurricane Maria could impact our state.

For Yamyria Morales, her baby daughter and 2 year old son Jonael, home for now is a couple of cots in an elementary school gymnasium in Vega Alta, an hour west of San Juan.

"I've lost track of when I arrived here," Morales says. "It's been really hard."

Morales, a 25-year-old single mom, came to the shelter with her kids and her father just days after Hurricane Maria destroyed her wooden home in Sabana Hoyos, about 20 miles away.

"Whatever little I had, I lost," she says.

Javier Gonzalez has joined a human tide of more than 130,000 U.S. citizens arriving in Florida since Hurricane Maria wrecked Puerto Rico, grateful for a place to start over but resenting how their island has been treated since the disaster.

After Hurricane Harvey flooded her city of Houston in August, Dr. Jennifer McQuade planned to donate socks to those affected. Instead, surprised by the lack of medical care at a nearby shelter, McQuade, an oncologist, became the unofficial leader of a group of physicians and mothers providing emergency aid at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston. She triaged patients, solicited donations and recruited more doctors to join.

Many residents are making daily visits to distribution sites, where the Army has set up portable water purification systems.

After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, 18-year-old Ledishla Acevedo booked a flight to Miami in hopes of continuing her college education in Florida.

When she arrived at her cousin’s house here, she turned on the lights and started to cry.

Then she took a hot shower and cried some more.

Kyanna Riggins / WUSF Public Media

Volunteers from the Suncoast Animal League returned from their rescue trip in Puerto Rico Tuesday  night.

Along with them came more than 100 dogs and cats who were unable to be properly cared for due to the limited resources available following Hurricane Maria.

At Puerto Rico’s request, Florida Governor Rick Scott will travel to the devastated island Friday to offer advice about how to speed up efforts to restore the island’s power.

PATILLAS, Puerto Rico – Jan Carlo Pérez’s family has a farm in Patillas, Puerto Rico. It’s a town of lush green hillside forests known as the Caribbean island’s “emerald of the south.” But right now Patillas – close to where Hurricane Maria made landfall in September – is a struggling disaster casualty.

“You can see the barn is completely destroyed,” Pérez says during a walk around his property this month during a light drizzle. “We had fruit trees over there, the star fruit, the bread fruit. It’s all, it’s all gone….”

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