Federal Judge Rules FEMA Can Stop Paying for Emergency Relief Housing for Puerto Rican Hurricane Victims

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From [HERE] A federal judge in Massachusetts ruled [order, PDF] Thursday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) can stop paying for emergency relief housing for Puerto Rican civilians.

After Hurricane Maria stuck the US island territory nearly a year ago, FEMA has provided temporary housing assistance for victims. The program is known as “Transitional Shelter Assistance” (TSA). On June 30 FEMA announced it would discontinue the program, prompting plaintiffs to sue the agency and ask for an injunction.

Plaintiffs argued FEMA’s termination of their temporary hosing assistance violates their right to due process. The court said that what is provided by a government plan does not constitute a form of property entitled to due process recognition.

Plaintiffs alleged the agency’s revocation violated their right to equal protection under the Constitution and discriminated against them because they were Puerto Rican. They stated that FEMA approved more financial extensions and gave more resources to victims of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, but did not do the same for victims of Hurricane Maria. The court pointed out that the extent of damage against the two former disasters was much greater than that in Puerto Rico, which was the reason why FEMA provided more resources.

Despite taking into concerns for public interest, risk of irreparable harm, and balance of equities, the judge said that the court only has the power to enforce the law as it is written. The judge’s order is set to take effect on September 13, 2018.