Taking Care of Puerto Rican Refugees

An Orlando lawmaker who was born in Puerto Rico and still has family there says the federal response after Hurricane Maria has been a failure and Florida needs to step up.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Rican refugees have come to Florida and State Senator Victor Torres of Orlando says more people leave the island every day.

"More than a month after landfall of Hurricane Maria, the people living on the island are not much better off today than they were after the storm," he said.

Torres says they'll need to spend more on health care, and Senate Budget Chairman Jack Latvala of Clearwater is sympathetic.

"I don't think there's anyone sitting at this table, on this committee, or in the  senate who objects to helping in preparing for these immigrants into Florida," he said. "They are United States citizens, they are our brothers and sisters."

Torres says he also wants the state to set aside more money for children of refugees who end up in Florida schools. 

Education Commissioner Pam Stewart says they're keeping count.

"We have a count of 3,066 statewide from Puerto Rico and 4,074 from the Virgin Islands," she said.

Stewart says they should be able to handle the increase in students without additional funding... but that could change  as more refugees arrive.


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