Update on Legal Challenge to Extend Housing Assistance for Puerto Ricans

CONTACT: Christiaan Perez, cperez@latinojustice.org, 212-739-7581

Summary: Today was the hearing on the potential extension of FEMA housing assistance for Puerto Ricans displaced because of Hurricane Maria. The legal team is eagerly awaiting Judge Hillman’s decision about extending the temporary restraining order pending full evidentiary merits hearing on the motion.

Detailed: Today was a preliminary hearing on Asencio, et. al v. FEMA, et. al litigation challenging FEMA’s June 30th termination of the Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) program for evacuees from Puerto Rico now temporarily staying at FEMA contracted hotels in the mainland U.S. As you know, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and our co-counsel at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips, LLP & the Law Office of Hector Pineiro on Saturday, June 30th filed a lawsuit and emergency motion for a Temporary Restraining Order staying termination of the TSA rental subsidy and mass eviction of these evacuees subjecting them to yet further trauma. After a preliminary emergency telephonic conference Saturday evening, Massachusetts Federal Judge Leo Sorokin issued an electronic temporary restraining order enjoining the FEMA defendants from terminating the Temporary Housing Assistance program providing shelter payments for the plaintiffs and the putative class members until at least midnight July 3rd, 2018 enabling plaintiffs & class members to stay until checkout time on July 4, 2018; ordered the defendants and their agents to provide notice and take whatever action is necessary to extend the assistance until the aforementioned deadline; and scheduled a further hearing today before the assigned judge to the case, Judge Hillman. Judge Sorokin noted his ruling was without prejudice to any rulings to be made by Judge Hillman.

On Sunday, July 1st FEMA issued an announcement noting Judge Sorokin’s order concerning the TSA rental assistance, and noted it was working with its vendor and notifying hotels that the TSA program had been fully extended through July 5th in compliance with the Court’s order.

Judge Hillman conducted a telephonic hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion to continue and extend the temporary restraining order for at least 30 days pending a formal hearing on the motion for the Court to consider testimony and other evidence. The Judge reserved decision at the end of the hearing. We will provide a further update once a decision is issued, which could be as soon as later today, or by tomorrow at the earliest.

Stay tuned for more updates

Background Legal Documents

Class Action Complaint for Relief for Hurricane Maria Evacuees

Plaintiffs Alian Ascensio, Aracelis Velez Cruz, Denise Nieves, Yaritza de Jesus Lopez, Rosa Rivera, Angel Lauriano Muñoz de Jesus, Bethzaida Crespo Vicente, and Iris Otero (collectively, “Plaintiffs”), by and through their undersigned attorneys, bring this complaint against the Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”), William Brock Long, Thomas Van Essen, and Alejandro De La Campa, on behalf of themselves and all similarly situated individuals.

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Judge Response Granting TRO

The official message from the judge that was sent granting the Temporary Restraining Order.

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