Last week a federal court ordered the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) to halt the eviction of nearly 2,000 individuals from Puerto Rico displaced by Hurricane Maria, who are living in hotels both on the island and on the mainland. FEMA was set to terminate the Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) Program on June 30, when a federal court ordered FEMA to delay evictions until July 3 and subsequently extended that date until July 23. The court determined that victims are entitled to assistance as long as they remain eligible and are transitioning into other housing. The judge also noted that after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA provided survivors with rental assistance for 18 months through a similar program. The class action lawsuit was filed by national civil rights groups LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Faith and Action, which are both members of the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition, along with Enterprise.
Advocates have called on Congress to enact longer-term housing solutions for Hurricane Maria survivors. The Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition is supporting companion bills introduced by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Rep. Adriano Espillat (D-NY) “The Housing Victims of Major Disasters Act” (S. 2996 and H.R. 5474),” which would activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP). DHAP provides disaster survivors with temporary housing assistance and wrap-around case management and is administered by Public Housing Agencies. Enterprise supports activating DHAP and encourages FEMA, HUD and Congress to provide displaced hurricane survivors with temporary housing assistance.