Hurricane Maria victims rally in Springfield as aid deadlines loom

Hampden County

Families forced to leave Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria returned to the Springfield offices of Senator Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey to rally for answers as final FEMA and Red Cross deadlines loom.

FEMA recently announced blanket extensions for all displaced Hurricane Maria families through May 14. Red Cross also extended assistance through May 23.

According to Pioneer Valley Project Director Tara Parrish, many of the families are unsure where they will sleep after their emergency assistance benefits run out. They want Senators Warren and Markey to “fight harder for permanent housing.”

“Without permanent housing, many of the adults in the families are unable to get a driver’s license and access sufficient employment,” Parrish said in a release sent to 22News.

“We understand that our delegation is probably exhausted and trying to do what they can,” Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez said. “But we need to be held to a standard when it comes to elected officials and if they made a promise, I’m here to make sure that their promise is answered.”

According to a statement sent to 22News by Warren’s office, her and Markey’s staff have been in touch with the Pioneer Valley Project to schedule follow-up conversations in order to identify ways they can help.

“We share the concerns of hurricane evacuees here in Western Mass: the federal government’s response to the crisis in Puerto Rico is unacceptable. DHS’s decision to extend temporary shelter assistance is a needed step, but we’re concerned there is still no longer-term plan in place. Families need certainty as they work to get back on their feet, not arbitrary deadlines, and we will keep pressing the Trump Administration for a safe and stable housing solution.” — Senators Warren and Markey

The group of families participated in a similar rally last month, and won a meeting with staff from both Senate offices the next day.

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