Eight relocated Puerto Rican citizens have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency—FEMA—and three of its top officials over the agency’s response to the crisis caused by the devastating Hurricane Maria.
Eight relocated Puerto Rican citizens have filed a proposed class action lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency—FEMA—and three of its top officials over the agency’s response to the crisis caused by the devastating Hurricane Maria. The lawsuit alleges that contrary to its public stance, FEMA is planning to “prematurely abort” its plan to provide assistance to thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by the natural disaster. Through the litigation, the plaintiffs aim to have to the court compel FEMA to “take other action that it has unlawfully withheld or unreasonably delayed.”
According to the 29-page lawsuit, FEMA announced that on June 30, it will permanently end its Transitional Shelter Assistance (TSA) program, which provides funding to hotels and motels that shelter thousands of Puerto Ricans forced to evacuate their homes on the island. The plaintiffs argue that for them and other TSA evacuees, returning to their homes, “or what is left of their homes,” in Puerto Rico is simply not an option.
“FEMA’s refusal to extend TSA is without any plan for transitioning into longer-term housing some 2,000 individuals who have already faced severe trauma and lost most, if not all, of their belongings, their homes and their jobs,” the case claims.
Puerto Rican evacuees housed at hotels and motels across the United States have effectively become homeless, the suit says. For its part, the case attests, FEMA is “knowingly withholding desperately needed support” from marginalized Americans at risk of potential irreparable injury.
“Indeed, the evacuees will be ripped from their homes yet again,” the lawsuit pleads, “not by a natural disaster, but by a manmade one created by the federal agency charged with disaster relief.”
Absent judicial oversight, the lawsuit goes on, “victimization” of Puerto Rican evacuees by FEMA will continue.