WNPR

Reversing Its Decision, FEMA Tells Puerto Rican Evacuees To Move Out of Hartford Hotel

Jan 19, 2018

Only days after the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it would pay for dozens of hurricane evacuees to stay in a Harford hotel until mid-February, state officials were told by FEMA on Thursday there had been an error, and that several of the families had to vacate their temporary housing. 

That left Wanda Ortiz scared she’d have to check out of the hotel in a matter of hours. She’s been living there with her daughter and two grandchildren. Carmen Cotto, another evacuee living there, translated for her.

"She’s scared she’s going to end up in the streets," Cotto said, translating. "Because she’s called -- and the shelters are full."

Cotto said she was was told by hotel staff around noon that she, Ortiz, and several others had to leave the hotel by 3:00 pm.

But before that could happen, families were told by city officials not to leave the hotel. The state says it will now provide assistance to make sure the families can stay there -- and on Thursday night, Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal issued a statement saying that FEMA had granted them a three-day extension.

Ortiz said the uncertainty has been hard for her family.

"She was saying that this back and forth of yes and no and yes and no, makes her sad, and brings instability to the children," Ortiz said. 

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy wrote a letter to FEMA Thursday urging the agency to reverse its decision. 

In a statement, FEMA Public Affairs Director William Booher said, "As a result of the latest eligibility review, 36 families located in hotels in Connecticut were determined to be ineligible for further assistance. FEMA is actively working with Connecticut’s Emergency Management Agency to address this issue and determine the most appropriate path forward to provide support to those with a validated need for continued assistance.”