ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Orange County leaders are working out plans to handle the influx of Puerto Ricans who will leave the hurricane-ravaged island.
Leaders said their top priority is helping evacuees get jobs and housing.
Some community leaders are expecting 300,000 to 400,000 Puerto Ricans to relocate to Florida.
Because of the mass destruction Hurricane Maria caused in Puerto Rico, Peter Vivaldi hasn't been able to reach some family members or friends.
But while he waits, Vivaldi is trying to advocate for the island.
"We're just a voice to the voiceless out there," he said.
Casa, an organization formed originally to help with Hurricane Irma relief, now believes 300,000 to 400,000 Puerto Ricans will move to Florida.
"We’ve never seen such catastrophic destruction. We've never seen such a large migration either,” said Vivaldi.
That estimate comes from two numbers; the number of Puerto Ricans who have already come to the U.S. post-hurricane by plane and cruise ships, and the number of Puerto Ricans still living in towns on the island that need the most rebuilding.
Those people will also need a place to sleep and a way to earn a paycheck in Central Florida, possibly until they can go back.
That could be six months to a year.
"They're not coming to ask for a handout. They're coming to ask for a hand up," Vivaldi said.
Casa coordinator Jimmy Torres is asking Orange County commissioners for a Puerto Rico migration task force to plan for housing options possibly in the form of temporary trailers, immediate employment opportunities, and other resources like teachers to work with children who don't speak English.
"We pay taxes here, so we want our taxes to be used wisely. But at the same time, we want to be in solidarity with the people of Puerto Rico," said Torres.
Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs said the needs should be funneled up to the state level so everything can be coordinated statewide.
She also said a task force shouldn't involve the county because of sunshine laws, adding that it could slow down relief efforts
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