Aid For Families In Connecticut Displaced By Hurricane Maria Fuels Rally At State Capitol


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photo: CT Puerto Rican Agenda

It has been more than five months since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, but on Wednesday at a rally on the steps of the Capitol, the memories of home and the feelings of despair made it seem as if the devastation occurred yesterday.

“There was a moment during the hurricane where my children sat, cried and screamed because they were scared,” Merelys Torres, a displaced islander, told the crowd. “I didn’t leave my island because I wanted to. I left my island because my children, husband and I needed an opportunity for a better future.”
Wednesday’s rally called for aid for thousands of Puerto Ricans who, like Torres, have arrived in Connecticut following a destructive hurricane season.
The rally specifically called for lawmakers to support a bill, HB5082, which asks for $2.5 million to be appropriated in the budget to provide funding to school districts accepting students, nonprofits and resource centers assisting affected families and for rental assistance.
“[Puerto Ricans] have been treated as second-class citizens,” Rep. Juan Candelaria, D-New Haven, who introduced the bill, said to the crowd of more than 100.
“The federal government has done little to nothing to help the people arriving to the state of Connecticut,” Candelaria said. “But we Latinos have said ‘Let’s help out Puerto Rican brothers and sisters’… and we’ve announced a proposal of law that would provide financial assistance to this community.”
The bill, which was co-sponsored by Rep. Geraldo Reyes, D-Waterbury, was referred to the appropriations committee two weeks ago.
“The main concern of each of these families is that the term given by FEMA is expiring on [March 20],” Juan Bermudez, a member of Make a Road CT said. “FEMA is going to stop the payments to hotels and what will happen to them?”
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