Two state lawmakers of Puerto Rican descent are teaming up to help Puerto Ricans recover from the damage left by Hurricane Maria, a monster storm which ravaged most of the island last week.
Reps. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, and and Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, joined forces to create the “FL2PR” response team to help residents pack their bags, evacuate the island and come to Florida.
According to a press release, the response team will work with private organizations to “bring relief” to Puerto Rico residents.
The team will assist Puerto Ricans in a variety of ways, helping them leave the island and start a new life in Florida.
FL2PR will help displaced residents with education, healthcare, documents and even job placement as they attempt to start a new life after the island was badly damaged by the Category 4 storm.
Working with partners like NBC Universal, Disney, Sea World and Walmart, Cortes and Plasencia said they’d do everything in their power to help Puerto Rican refugees get back on their feet.
The FL2PR response team is jam-packed with lawmakers from both sides of the aisle who have vowed to help those in need following Hurricane Maria.
The team includes:
Florida House Speaker Pro Tempore Jeanette Núñez
Florida Senate Minority Leader Oscar Braynon
Florida House Speaker-designate José R. Oliva
Rep. Robert Asencio
Rep. Daisy Baez
Rep. Danny Burgess
Rep. Matt Caldwell
Rep. Janet Cruz
Rep. Jose Felix Diaz
Rep. Manny Diaz Jr.
Sen. Anitere Flores
Rep. Julio Gonzalez
Rep. Mike LaRosa
Rep. Amy Mercado
Rep. Mike Miller
Rep. Scott Plakon
Rep. Paul Renner
Sen. José Javier Rodríguez
Rep. Jackie Toledo
Sen. Victor Torres
Rep. David Santiago
Rep. Carlos Smith
More than 3.5 million people live in Puerto Rico, which was left totally in the dark after Hurricane Maria swept through the country last week. Maria hammered the state with strong wind speeds, torrential rain and knocked out power for the entire island.
Officials estimate electricity will be restored within four to six months.
Local hospitals have struggled to provide health care services to Puerto Rican residents since they are inundated with rubble from the storm and are working on generators with limited fuel supply to keep electricity and other facilities running.
Florida is home to more than 1 million people of Puerto Rican descent, with the highest number of Puerto Ricans concentrated in the Orlando and Tampa regions. Many Puerto Ricans fled to the U.S. following the economy’s plummet in recent years.
More than 100,000 Puerto Ricans live in Miami-Dade County alone, a number which expected to climb as the full extent of Maria’s damage is assessed.
“Since many Puerto Ricans already have family members in Florida, it makes sense that many will be looking to relocate here to rebuild their lives while the island’s infrastructure is literally being rebuilt,” Plasencia said in a statement. “This effort represents an opportunity for Floridians to reach out in a very real way to offer a helping hand to our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico who are facing such huge challenges from Maria’s impact.”