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Temporary housing to end for Puerto Ricans displaced by hurricane
A federal judge ruled on Thursday that temporary housing given to hundreds of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria will end in September.
The Puerto Ricans will be forced to check out of temporary housing provided by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) as part of its Transitional Sheltering Assistance (TSA) program on Sept. 14, according to NBC News.
"I strongly urge the parties to work together to find temporary housing, or other assistance to the Plaintiffs and other members of the class prior to that date," U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman of Massachusetts reportedly wrote in his ruling.
The ruling comes the same week Puerto Rico updated its official death toll from Maria to 2,975, a vast increase from the original count of 64.
The decision from Hillman also comes about two months after a national civil rights group filed a lawsuit that sought a restraining order to block FEMA from ending the program. The group, LatinoJustice, argued in the suit that it would lead to families' evictions.
"If this eviction goes forth, it will do irreparable harm to people who have already suffered so much," Denise Collazo, chief of staff for a group that has been working with evacuees, said in the statement at the time. "Thousands of people lost homes, jobs, cars, places to go to school, and are suffering unnecessarily."
Some 1,744 Puerto Rican adults and children were in the FEMA program when the lawsuit was filed.
U.S. District Judge Leo T. Sorokin temporarily extended the program to July 30 following the suit. Hillman subsequently extended it until Aug. 31.
"FEMA is aware of the federal judge's ruling this morning extending the TSA program with a new checkout date of Sept. 14," the agency said in a statement to The Hill. "At present, FEMA is working with its vendor and notifying potential hotels that the program has been extended to comply with the court's order; however, beyond the court-ordered date, there will be no further extensions of the TSA program."