Saturday, a federal court ordered a temporary halt to the evictions of nearly 2,000 victims of Hurricane Maria, and now the court is again extending the halt on the evictions.
The lawsuit was filed with the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts by Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition members, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Faith in Action against the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and seeks to decrease the risk of natural disaster victims facing homelessness.
Originally, FEMA was set to evict the Hurricane Maria victims on June 30, 2018, but a judge temporarily extended the program until midnight on July 3, 2018.
The judge determined Saturday that the storm's victims within the TSA program are entitled to reasonable notice of the termination of the temporary housing assistance, assistance as long as they remain eligible and assistance in transitioning to other housing. The judge’s ruling also pointed out that in previous, equivalent disasters, FEMA extended the temporary housing assistance much longer than in the present disaster.
After a meeting Tuesday, Judge Timothy Hillman issued an order backing the extension of the temporary restraining order to July 23, 2018 pending a formal hearing.
The lawsuit alleges that FEMA was planning to prematurely abort its assistance to thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria when it discontinued its Transitional Shelter Assistance program.
“We appreciate the court’s approach, which recognizes the critical housing situation faced by these vulnerable families and provides an opportunity for the court to obtain the facts justifying their claim,” said Craig de Recat, Manatt, Phelps & Phillips partner. “We are confident that after the court sees the evidence, it will become clear how FEMA has failed in its legal responsibilities to these families, our fellow citizens.”