ORLANDO, Fla. – The Disaster Relief Center at Orlando International Airport, which was set up to aid evacuees fleeing from Puerto Rico to Florida after Hurricane Maria, will stop operations on Friday, Dec. 29.
Alberto Moscoso with the Florida Division of Emergency Management told News 6 the center will reopen at another location.
"By transitioning this center to a community location, those individuals displaced by Hurricane Maria will have better access to the many services available to them via state, federal and non-governmental organizations. This transition will likely happen before the end of the year," said Moscoso.
Since opening on Oct. 3, the center has provided support to more than 28,000 individuals, nearly 6,000 of whom came directly from arriving flights.
The center was a collaborative effort with the State of Florida and local and federal partners, which supported recovery efforts and matched individuals and families with available resources.
Resources consisted of:
• Job referrals
• Health services
• Assistance from FEMA
• Emotional and spiritual care
• Food assistance
• Public school registration
• Clothing assistance
“The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority is pleased to have been able to compassionately serve those who have been affected greatly in the wake of Hurricane Maria by hosting the Disaster Relief Center at Orlando International Airport,” said Frank Kruppenbacher, chairman of the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority. “The Aviation Authority appreciates Gov. Rick Scott and his team for their leadership as well as the support of all the community partners who made this endeavor so successful.”
Marucci Guzman with Latino Leadership, a non-profit organization that has helped countless Puerto Rican families even before Hurricane Maria hit the island said she knew the center wouldn't stay open forever.
"I think that there's never going to be an end point, right. So, there's never going to be a day that makes everyone happy. They can't do it forever. Non-profits do get burned out. We're running on volunteers," said Guzman.
The Disaster Recovery Center at the Orange County Bank will also see some changes next week.
The center will close on Wednesday, Dec. 20, and will reopen in the same location as a U.S. Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Outreach Center.
Once the transition is complete, SBA customer service representatives will be available to meet with business owners and residents to answer questions, explain the SBA’s disaster loan program and close their approved disaster loans.
Business owners and residents can meet with SBA representatives on the days and times indicated. No appointment is necessary.
Applicants for disaster loans may apply online via the SBA’s secure website at disasterloan.sba.gov/ela and use the electronic loan application.
Disaster loan information and application forms are also available from SBA’s customer service center by calling 800-659-2955 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. Individuals who are deaf or hard-of-hearing may call 800-877-8339.
For more disaster assistance information, or to download applications, visit sba.gov/disaster.
The hours at the U.S Small Business Administration Disaster Loan Outreach Center will be from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., and the center will be closed on Sundays.