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Judge temporarily blocks evicting Puerto Rico evacuees from hotels

Judge to make final decision July 23, displaced evacuees now have until July 24

Puerto Rican activists and others participate in a protest outside of New York City's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) office to call on Congress and FEMA to deliver the aid and resources thousands of Puerto Ricans desperately need to recover on February 20, 2018 in New York City.
Puerto Rican activists and others participate in a protest outside of New York City's Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) office to call on Congress and FEMA to deliver the aid and resources thousands of Puerto Ricans desperately need to recover on February 20, 2018 in New York City. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

A federal judge on Tuesday bought 1,700 Puerto Rican evacuee families living on the mainland more time from becoming homeless.

The evacuees who were displaced by Hurricane Maria in September and have been living in Florida and other states. They were set to be evicted from hotels funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency housing voucher program over the weekend. However, Judge Leo Sorokin, of U.S. District Court in Massachusetts, granted a temporary restraining order on Saturday. It extended the evacuees' time in hotels through Thursday.

Sorokin said ending federal the Transitional Shelter Assistance program, or TSA, vouchers could irreparably harm desperate hurricane survivors with nowhere else to go.

During a hearing in Massachusetts Monday, U.S. District Judge Timothy Hillman heard form attorneys for FEMA and those representing the displaced evacuees.

Hillman ruled Tuesday that he would allow more time for attorneys on both sides to present their cases, granting a continuation of the temporary restraining order.

FEMA must present their argument on July 13, while attorneys representing the evacuees have until July 18.

Hillman's decision extends the restraining order put in place Saturday by Sorokin.

Hillman said he will decide the case on July 23. This gives the evacuees who have been unable find permanent affordable housing until July 24 to remain in the hotels that have become their temporary homes.

FEMA Public Affairs Director William Booher issued a statement on the court order extending the TSA program.

"FEMA will continue to work with its vendor and notify hotels that the TSA program for Puerto Rico has been extended until July, with checkout on July 24, to comply with the Court's order. Beyond that, FEMA will not comment on pending litigation."

The TSA program has been extended four times since February, each time because of a request by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló. However, he did not request an extension past the previous June 30 deadline.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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