Mayor Teresa Jacobs joined a roundtable discussion of ongoing relief efforts for Puerto Rico held by Florida Gov. Rick Scott at the Osceola County Emergency Management Office on Nov. 13. In the wake of both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria, and in keeping with Orange County’s culture of care and compassion, Orange County Government continues to support those who have been impacted by Hurricane Maria.
Orange County and local residents continue to work collaboratively on relief and recovery efforts in partnership with FEMA, the State of Florida, community and faith-based organizations, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, the Office of First Lady of Puerto Rico, Mrs. Beatriz Rosselló, the Hispanic Federation, CASA, the Heart of Florida United Way and the American Red Cross.
Immediately following Hurricane Maria, Orange County launched a new webpage, “Puerto Rico Disaster Relief: United We Can Do More.” The webpage initially served to assist those searching for loved ones, when communication with the Island was extremely limited. The site now provides information about disaster resources, how local residents can participate in relief efforts, and special events that benefit the people of Puerto Rico. It continues to be updated.
“Throughout these recent disasters, the support and mutual cooperation that our community displayed has been truly remarkable,” Mayor Jacobs said. “For all those who volunteered and offered a helping hand during Hurricanes Irma and Maria – both to our Central Florida neighbors in need, as well our beloved Puerto Rican brothers and sisters – our entire community joins in saying thank you.”
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria, a category 4 hurricane, struck the island of Puerto Rico, home to nearly 3.5 million individuals. The impact, which devastated much of the island’s infrastructure, prompted the evacuation of thousands of individuals as the island recovers.
At the direction of Gov. Scott, three Multi-Agency Resource Centers (MARC) have opened across the state to include the Orlando International Airport, Miami International Airport, and the Port of Miami for Puerto Rican families displaced by Hurricane Maria. These centers have also been referred to as “Welcome Centers or Relief Centers.” They are managed by the state of Florida.
In Orange County, the Orlando International Airport site opened on Oct. 3 with support services to include federal, state, local and non-profit and volunteer organizations, as listed below:
- Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Children and Families, Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Department of Health, Department of Economic Opportunity, American Red Cross and Catholic Charities.
- These partners offer services such as help with registering for FEMA Individual Assistance, crisis counseling, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) information, assistance with unaccompanied minors and agency social services, assistance with animal services, medical attention and health concerns, employment information and training services, food and water resources, language guidance and spiritual care.
- Locally, Orange County Government, Heart of Florida United Way (HFUW), Orange County Public Schools, and other local social service organizations have representation at the Orlando center. Orange County has partnered with the Heart of Florida United Way to assist evacuees who seek assistance at the OIA Welcome Center.
- The hours of operation for the Orlando center are Mon. – Fri. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and closed on Sunday.
- In addition, Seminole and Osceola counties also opened local relief operations, along with the City of Orlando.