A federal judge has approved a temporary restraining order that allows the nearly 1,800 Puerto Rican survivors of Hurricane Maria to stay in temporary housing for another four days.
Following the order, the Federal Emergency Management Agency added a fifth day of housing.
The FEMA-funded Transitional Sheltering Assistance for 1,744 Maria victims was set to end at checkout time Sunday. U.S. District Judge Leo Sorokin ruled that the program will continue until at least midnight July 3, 2018, enabling people to stay until checkout time on July 4, 2018.
Sorokin cited the potential for “irreparable harm” for victims who would be left homeless. He added the “specter of many sick individuals without homes of their own being rendered homeless with the resulting drain on other public resources in addition to the possible human consequences.”
In a statement, William Booher, FEMA’s public affairs director, said the agency is working to notify hotels that the TSA program has been extended until July 5.
Some 7,030 families have benefited from the program since Oct. 30, 2017, according to the agency. The program has been extended numerous times after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit on Sept. 7 and Sept. 20, 2017, respectively.
The agency also said that the Transportation Assistance to get Maria survivors from the U.S. mainland back to Puerto Rico has been extended for another 60 days. Displaced people will now have until August 30 to have FEMA cover the cost of airfare, luggage and pet fees to return home.
Ariana Colon, who is pregnant and living with her boyfriend and 1-year-old child in a Central Florida hotel room, told WFTV that she is among those who were affected following Maria.
"We came here because of the situation that pushed us to come here with nothing but maybe a suitcase with some clothes and that's it," Colon said.
U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., and six other senators Thursday wrote a letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long, urging him to extend the deadline.
“Given the continuing housing needs of displaced individuals and families after Hurricane Maria, we urge you to grant a sixty-day extension of the TSA program,” the senators wrote.
The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority reported that 2,344 customers are still without power after Hurricane Maria, continuing the longest blackout in U.S. history.