The Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation is stepping up to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands while preparing the state’s largest county for the influx of hurricane victims from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
On Thursday, the Miami-Dade County Legislative Delegation announced the formation of the Puerto Rico/Caribbean Hurricane Relief and transition committee to help coordinate relief efforts for the islands which were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last month.
Rep. Robert Asencio, D-Miami, will serve as chairman of the committee.
“As a legislator of Puerto Rican descent, I am honored to be given the opportunity to help my fellow Boricua and our fellow Americans in the USVI in their time of need as they make the transition to the mainland,” said Asencio on Thursday.
Miami-Dade County is expected to see an influx of thousands of evacuees fleeing Puerto Rico in the coming months due to its geographical proximity to the island.
More than 1 million Puerto Ricans already reside in Florida, but Hurricane Maria could send over 100,000 more to the Sunshine State in areas like Miami-Dade and Orlando, which already have high populations of Puerto Ricans.
Florida legislators have vowed to step in to help Puerto Ricans adjust to life in Florida and help them find jobs, housing and schools to attend to make the transition a little easier.
“The Transition Committee represents a proactive step by our Legislative Delegation to help people get back on their feet more quickly,” said Asencio. “Although Hurricane Maria caused incredible destruction and many lost their homes, Florida stands ready to welcome anyone seeking a fresh start in our state.”
Hurricane Irma swept through the Caribbean during the first part of September, followed closely by Hurricane Maria, which soaked Puerto Rico with heavy rainfall and knocked out the country’s power grid, leaving all of the U.S. territory’s 3.5 million residents without power.
Since then, state lawmakers have formed various committees to assist Puerto Ricans -- last month, Reps. Bob Cortes, R-Altamonte Springs, and Rene Plasencia, R-Orlando, formed FL2PR, a bipartisan relief effort for the victims of Hurricane Maria.
“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,” said Rep. Plasencia last month. “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.”
Asencio also sits on the FL2PR Response Team’s legislative delegation, which includes both Republicans and Democrats working towards providing relief for Puerto Ricans.
Meanwhile, the U.S. House is currently working to push through a $36.5 billion disaster aid package, which includes money for Puerto Rico.