>> In the days after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello predicted that people would move to the US if the island didn't receive enough resources quickly. After months without electricity, cellular communication, or running water, Puerto Ricans have been fleeing their island for the mainland US. I'm Robin Respaut for Reuters News and I'm here in Osceola County, Florida.
Puerto Ricans are leaving the island at the fastest rate in more than 50 years, motivated by rising joblessness, shuttered public schools and a severe doctor shortage. That's shifted the cost of assisting Puerto Ricans, nearly half of whom live below the poverty level, to US states and local governments.
Since early October, when the island was hit by Hurricane Maria, about 300,000 people have arrived in Florida alone. The Osceola County School District has seen over 2,000 new students from Puerto Rico. Some of them have come without clothes or records and some exhibit symptoms of post-traumatic stress. Affordable housing, already a problem in Osceola County before Hurricanes Irma and Maria ravaged the Caribbean, is now cracking at the seams with islanders seeking refuge from friends and families in this growing Puerto Rican outpost.
Many families have moved into motels that line the highways to Disney World resorts. The living quarters are tight and expensive, many starting at over $1,000 a month. That makes it hard for families to save enough money to afford their own homes. Florida Governor, Rick Scott, has proposed an additional $100 million in state spending to help areas impacted by Puerto Rican evacuees.
A new hurricane relief bill under consideration by Congress would also send more money to Florida to compensate school districts.