An update on Hurricane Maria recovery efforts
From Orange County Commissioner Bryan Nelson
Orange County continues to support the ongoing recovery efforts to help both evacuees and those still residing in Puerto Rico. This article serves to provide another update on the County’s efforts to assist in the recovery of Post-Hurricane Maria.
At the meeting of the Orange County Board of County Commissioners on December 19, 2017, the Board was presented with an update on the recovery efforts following the impacts of Hurricane Maria from Orange County Emergency Management. To date, the report from the Multi-Agency Resource Center (MARC) at the Orlando International Airport (OIA) offered the following flight arrival information for people coming in from Puerto Rico: 316 flights had transported 50,801 passengers in October; 351 flights had transported 56,126 passengers in November; and 216 flights had transported 34,078 passengers in December. In total, 883 flights had transported 141,005 passengers in the past 3 months following Hurricane Maria.
The report provided an update on the number of people who had received assistance between October 3 and December 15: 4,811 of the evacuees were alone; and 8,332 of the evacuees were families. In total, the amount of people that were served upon arrival at OIA was 6,014, and the total amount of people served overall was 30,425. In addition, as of December 14, 2,953 Puerto Rican students have enrolled in Orange County Public Schools.
United Way has provided hotel rooms for 210 families in need of a place to stay and 2,221 room nights, at a cost of $149,621. Orange County has partnered with United Way to fund these hotel rooms and may possibly be reimbursed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). In addition, starting on November 10, it was reported that 438 Households (HHS) (1,182 people total) Puerto Ricans were in 458 Rooms, located in FEMA TSA Hotels in Orange County; 32% of the State’s evacuees from Puerto Rico are currently in Orange County. Furthermore, 1,370 HHS (3,393 people total) are staying in 1,436 rooms throughout the State of Florida. Lastly, the number of Puerto Ricans in Orange County that have registered with the FEMA Individual Assistance (IA) program was 1,956 HHS (3,995 people total).
As of December 15, the following has been restored in Puerto Rico: 70% of power (60 of 69 areas restored), with expected restorations of 75% by February, 95% by March, and 100% by May; 95% of water supply (87% – 99% in 5 regions); 84% of fuel stations have been opened; 35 shelters are currently still operating, sheltering 574 people (with a total recorded peek amount of 3,700); 92% of stores have been opened; and 89% of telecommunication services have been restored.
On December 29, OIA closed its MARC to allow the agencies providing support services to relocate their supplies and operations to the new MARC location off-site (provided by the State). The new Center opened on January 2, and is located at 6490 Hazeltine National Drive, Suite 170, Orlando, FL 32822. Additionally, the new location is on Lynx Bus Route 51, in close proximity to Orlando International Airport. Furthermore, the new MARC location is open to evacuees Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
The University of Central Florida (UCF), Valencia College, and Rollins College, 3 of Orange County’s well-known post-secondary institutions, are currently contributing to the County’s recovery efforts by offering programs and services for both current and prospective college students from Puerto Rico as well as for their families.
Rollins College is offering the Discounted Transfer Spring Program designed to assist Puerto Rican and Caribbean students affected by recent hurricanes in continuing their collegiate studies with a discounted transfer program for the Spring semester. The program is extended to degree-seeking students who are currently enrolled in Puerto Rican and Caribbean colleges and universities with the goal that those displaced will have a chance to continue their studies. Students who are eligible and admitted to the program will be charged a flat fee of $8,500 for the Spring semester only; the fee covers tuition, room and board. For more information, residents can access the following link: https://apply.rollins.edu/register/spring2018_app.
Valencia College has multiple education and training programs to assist evacuees coming to the Orlando Metro area. The program features and benefits include the following: Short-term programs that lead to careers; job placement services; programs to improve English skills quickly; flexible schedules (daytime, evening, weekend); no application fee; reduced rates for those affected (select programs); monthly start dates; and multiple locations. Programs included are: ESOL/Intensive English; Advanced Manufacturing; Construction; Medical/Healthcare; and Public Safety. For more information, residents can access a brochure via the following link: http://www.ocfl.net/portals/0/Library/Board%20of%20County%20Commissioners/docs/valencia%20college%20continuing%20education%20and%20training.pdf.
To assist both current and prospective students, UCF has established a website that contains information about admissions, registration, transfer and transition services, and student support programs and services. Additionally, UCF has established a toll-free hotline for those who have additional questions or are seeking more information, which can be accessed by dialing 855-903-8576. The first term available for displaced students is Spring 2018, with the deadline for applications being on November 1, 2017. However, the website can still be accessed via the following link: http://www.sdes.ucf.edu/puerto-rico-educational-relief/.
On January 31, 2018, the Orange County Mayor’s 17th Annual Job Fair will take place at the Central Florida Fair Expo Park – Exhibit Hall C (4603 W Colonial Dr., Orlando FL 32808) from Noon-4:00 p.m. The Job Fair will host over 90 employers from the Central Florida area, and will be open to all job seekers, including veterans and citizens recently displaced by Hurricane Maria. In addition, there will also be a free pre-job fair workshop, “How to Work a Job Fair and Get the Job You Want,” prior to the event. Those interested in attending the Job Fair can register with the Central Florida Employment Council and find more information via the following link: https://www.cfec.org/job-fairs.
Second Harvest Food Bank in conjunction with Feeding America are in need of volunteers on an ongoing basis that can assist at partner agencies that have already begun seeing an increase in recipients. Residents can learn more about how they can become a volunteer at www.feedhopenow.org/disaster.
For additional ways to help, such as locating supply drop-off locations and organizations and agencies seeking donations, residents can go to the County webpage for Hurricane Maria disaster relief by accessing the following link: http://www.ocfl.net/EmergencySafety/HurricaneMariaPuertoRicoRelief.aspx.
Residents who are interested in watching the full segment from the Board Meeting may do so via the following link: http://netapps.ocfl.net/Mod/meetings/1 and clicking on Puerto Rico Update 1 and Puerto Rico Update 2.