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Sen. Blumenthal: FEMA Reports Could Be At Odds With Accounts From Puerto Rican Evacuees

Hurricane evacuees Yara Vasquez (left) and Wanda Ortiz (center) watch a press conference at the hotel they were living in with their families under a FEMA program on January 19, 2018.
Ryan Caron King
Connecticut Public Radio
Hurricane evacuees Yara Vasquez (left) and Wanda Ortiz (center) watch a press conference at the hotel they've been living in with their families under a FEMA program on January 19, 2018.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says that two dozen Puerto Rican families who relocated Hartford will no longer be eligible for housing assistance on Monday because inspections showed little or no damage to their homes in Puerto Rico.

On a conference call on Sunday, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal said FEMA told him there is electricity, safe water, and minimal structural damage in all of those 24 homes. But Blumenthal said he’s heard different accounts from some of the hurricane evacuees living in the hotel, so he’s pressing the agency to show him the inspection reports.

On Friday, several hurricane evacuees spoke at a press conference at the Red Roof Inn where dozens of families have been living under the FEMA program.

Yara Vasquez came to Hartford after losing her home to the hurricane. Speaking through a translator, she said her family has been living in a constant state of fear.

“We don’t know what’s gonna happen. I don’t know what’s going to happen to myself, to my children,” she said. “It’s very challenging -- not knowing what’s going to happen day to day. Can we stay in the Red Roof Inn? Can we not? Those are the questions that keep coming up, every single day.”

The state of Connecticut will pay for the families to keep living in the hotel until February to give them time to make more permanent arrangements.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency had previously said it would extend assistance till mid-February, but that offer was abruptly revoked last week.

Ryan Caron King joined Connecticut Public in 2015 as a reporter and video journalist. He was one of eight dedicated reporters on the New England News Collaborative’s launch team, covering regional issues such as immigration, the environment, transportation, and the opioid epidemic. His work has been published nationally on NPR’s Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Here & Now, and on NPR’s digital platforms. From 2017 to 2018, Ryan was on a team covering the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and won a National Edward R. Murrow Award for “Excellence in Video.” Since 2019, he has been a full-time visuals journalist.

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