FEMA Plans to Airlift Puerto Ricans to U.S. Mainland - Pacific Standard

FEMA Plans to Airlift Puerto Ricans to U.S. Mainland

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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.

CBS News reported Wednesday that FEMA has plans to work with the two states' governors to help relocate families still living in shelters on the island as part of FEMA's Transitional Shelter Assistance program.

Mike Byrne, a federal coordinating officer for FEMA, told CBS News that this is the first time FEMA has offered an "air breach," since it normally relocates evacuees to hotels. According to Bryne, only 30 families have expressed interest in the program so far.

"People really don't want to leave their homes," he 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."

Since the devastation left the entire island without power and water last month, over 100,000 Puerto Ricans have opted to evacuate to Florida on their own, NBC news reports. 

The Trump administration has been heavily criticized for its handling of the emergency, most notably from San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who told reporters in September: "We are dying here." Six weeks later, more than half the island remains without power.

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