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Expo offers birth certificates, other resources to Maria evacuees

First time PRDOH has issued birth certificates in Florida

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The sounds of both the U.S. and Puerto Rican national anthems filled the Orange County Convention Center Saturday morning as dozens of people stopped by for the Health and Family Expo.

The expo allowed Puerto Rican families to get their personal documents from the Puerto Rican Department of Health. Many evacuees had to leave documents like birth certificates behind when they fled from the island during Hurricane Maria.

This is the first time the PRDOH has ever issued birth certificates in Florida. Puerto Rican Secretary of Health Dr. Rafael Rodriguez said the piece of paper is life-changing for many people.

"You're able to get a passport, you're able to get any aid that come from the federal or state government, also identification to get a driver's license," Rodriguez said.

The expo also offered health screenings, job placement information and pediatric services for evacuees. 

Many evacuees are concerned with housing and their ability to continue to stay in Florida. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said local leaders are working together to figure out an affordable solution for Central Florida's new residents.

"We're hoping through FEMA and caseworkers we can help people who want to stay here in Florida to find locations where they can, and for people that want to return that they know how to return and what's available for them back in Puerto Rico," Jacobs said.

Rodriguez said the goal is to make sure every Puerto Rican knows they are being taken care of, even in a new home far from the island.

"No matter if they're in another state, we are Puerto Ricans and we are trying to help them in order to make their lives easier," Rodriguez said.