NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Nearly 100 Puerto Rican families who sought refuge in New York after Hurricane Maria now fear they will become homeless again.
The federal government says it’s cutting off housing payments, and they have to leave the hotels they’ve been staying in Saturday.
“It’s difficult,” Liz Cruz told CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer through her tears. “I always have to be strong for the kids. I always have to be strong for the family. And it’s not easy…. What am I going to do?”
That’s a question being asked by many of Cruz’s fellow Puerto Ricans who sought refuge here after the hurricane. Many gathered Thursday on steps of City Hall to call attention to the situation.
“It’s not an option going back, just because I don’t have a home in Puerto Rico,” said Cruz.
Home for her family has been a hotel in Chinatown, where all she has is a microwave and small refrigerator to prepare meals for her husband and three kids.
Time is running out. The 83 families in the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s temporary shelter assistance program have been told they face eviction Saturday.
State and city officials are trying to win a reprieve. Both Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio have implored FEMA to relent.
The mayor said extending the program “is crucial to ensure that evacuees have a safe and stable place to stay as they continue to wait for electricity to come online and work to rebuild their homes in Puerto Rico.”
All this comes as there was an island-wide power blackout just Wednesday.
“How could the federal government expect, given what we saw yesterday – how vulnerable and the fragility of the power grid in Puerto Rico – that they’re going to send them back?” Congresswoman Nydia Velasquez, D-Brooklyn, said.
“It would be a nightmare if the federal government does not renew this temporary shelter allowance,” Cuomo added.
A FEMA spokesperson told Kramer the agency will meet to consider what it called “a path forward for survivors.”
Cuomo said an extension until June would give officials in Puerto Rico more time to fix the power grid.
The city said it will help pay for hotels and assist with airfare for those who want to return home.