US FEMA offers to airlift Puerto Ricans to mainland U.S.

05:06  09 november  2017
05:06  09 november  2017 Source:   CBS News

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CBS NEWS November 8, 2017, 5:42 PM. FEMA offers to airlift Puerto Ricans to mainland U . S . The Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) is offering to airlift victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to the U . S . mainland to reach temporary housing -- a complex operation that would be

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person standing in a yard: Puerto Rico's long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria © Provided by CBS Interactive Inc. Puerto Rico's long road to recovery from Hurricane Maria

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is offering to airlift victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico to the U.S. mainland to reach temporary housing -- a complex operation that would be the first of its kind for the agency.

Under FEMA's Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, displaced residents and families who are still living in shelters on the island can opt to relocate to housing in Florida and New York. The agency is working with the governors in both states to work through logistical issues for families interested in participating.

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This is the first time FEMA has offered an air breach. The Federal Emergency Management Agency , which has faced backlash for its response to Hurricane Maria, will offer to airlift stranded Puerto Ricans to New York and Florida to find temporary housing.

Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) is calling on the Trump administration to direct the Federal Emergency Management Agency ( FEMA ) to fly residents of Puerto Rico to the mainland United States in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

Mike Byrne, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA, said the program is the first time the agency has attempted what it calls an "air bridge," or a relief operation requiring the transportation of individuals from a disaster area. In most disasters, FEMA pays for displaced residents to stay in hotels under the TSA program. In Puerto Rico, the hotels are filled to capacity, so FEMA is turning to the mainland and working with states to find accommodations.

"A thousand miles adds a whole level of complexity to this," Byrne said.

U.S. military cargo planes are seen parked at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Sept. 28, 2017.: PUERTORICO-WEATHER-HURRICANE-MARIA © Ricardo Arduengo / AFP/Getty Images PUERTORICO-WEATHER-HURRICANE-MARIA Byrne says agency teams are traveling to shelters on the island to ask longtime occupants about their housing options going forward, telling them about FEMA's offer. He said the level of interest in the program has so far been low, with only about 30 out of 300 families interviewed on Tuesday expressing interest in participating.

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"People really don't want to leave their homes," Byrne said. "We want to give them every opportunity we can to be able to stay here, whether it's providing financial assistance or repairing their homes. So we are going to work hard on those things so people don't have to leave."

FEMA says it will work with interested residents and families to develop a comprehensive plan of action before sending them to the mainland, including transportation to and from the airport and coordination to keep families together once they reach the states. FEMA would pay for the flights to and from the mainland.

Watch: Post-storm Puerto Rico: "still in emergency mode"

The extent of the devastation on Puerto Rico continues to hamper efforts to restore power, clean water and basic necessities to residents who remain on the island of 3.4 million Americans. Damage from the storm could eventually total $90 billion, and FEMA has said it has distributed more food and water than any other disaster it has been involved in.

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MIAMI (AP) — Lourdes Rodriguez fled Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria filled her home in the northern town of Vega Baja with mud, ruining mattresses and other belongings. She thought it would be a short stay with her daughter in Florida

Thousands of evacuees have fled Puerto Rico on their own accord. More than 100,000 evacuees have fled to Florida, with 1,300 Puerto Rican students enrolling in schools in the Orlando area alone.

"You can see it every day at the San Juan airport," Gov. Ricardo Rossello said on Sunday's broadcast of "60 Minutes." "There are tearful goodbyes as families break up and head off to start a new life on the mainland. The JetBlue solution they call it. More than 100,000 have left since Maria struck Puerto Rico 46 days ago. Some will return, many won't."

CBS News' David Begnaud, Chris St. Peter and Stefan Becket contributed to this report.

People Are Outraged About the Emergency Food Packages Being Sent to Puerto Ricans .
It’s been nearly two months since Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, leaving the ravaged island with minimum resources, limited forms of communication, and 80% of the U.S. territory without electricity. As big-name celebrities and companies like Google continue to ramp up relief efforts to help the beleaguered land, one company’s attempts to help fell flat.Longbranch Partners, LLC incurred the wrath of Puerto Ricans and supporters when victims began sharing photos of the food aid packages the government contractor was sending to locals.

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