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Displaced Puerto Ricans seek refuge in Florida
Officials are scrambling to manage a migration influx, impacting education budgets, housing, demographics and voter rolls.
Debora Oquendo, 43, makes a phone call to a doctor for her 10-month-old daughter in a hotel room where she lives, in Orlando, Florida on Dec. 4, 2017.
Oquendo and her baby girl Genesis Rivera share a hotel room, temporarily paid for by Federal Emergency Management Agency. They fled Puerto Rico in October after Hurricane Maria destroyed their house.
Oquendo, who found a part-time job that pays minimum wage, fears they will be homeless when that assistance runs out this month. "I don't have enough money to move to another place," Oquendo said. "I feel alone, and I'm afraid."
Eliany Martell, 5, reacts to being scolded by her father Felix Martell, left, 43, at a launderette in Ocala Dec. 2.
Martell is the primary caretaker for the child after his wife died two years ago. He worried Eliany's education would suffer in Puerto Rico due to lengthy school closures following Hurricane Maria.
Father and daughter are now living in a run-down hotel paid for by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Martell has yet to find a job. Still, he said there is no turning back. "The girl has learned more in three weeks of school here than in the entire semester on the island," he said. "I am concentrating on her future."
Felix Rodriguez, 11, hugs his mother Nydia Irizarry, 45, before a school bus picks him up outside a hotel where he lives with his family, in Orlando on Dec. 11.
Felix, his 22-year-old sister Keyshla Betancourt Irizarry and their mother came from Puerto Rico on a humanitarian flight in October after Hurricane Maria hit the island in late September.
Jose E. Torres fills out a job application at a supermarket after receiving a notification that he does not qualify for aid provided by the state to Puerto Ricans who were affected by Hurricane Maria, in Orlando on Dec. 13.
Torres arrived from Puerto Rico with his wife Luz Brenda Lebron and three children after Hurricane Maria hit the island in late September. The family lives in a hotel, which provides a temporary housing for displaced Puerto Ricans.
Keyshla Betancourt, 22, who suffers from brain cancer, takes off her wig after her first radiotherapy treatment, at a hotel in Orlando on Dec. 11.
Suffering with the blood cancer Hodgkin's Lymphoma, Betancourt was deteriorating fast on an island where hospitals have been badly damaged, doctors and nurses have emigrated and electricity outages are still widespread.
She is now on Florida's Medicaid plan, which pays for her daily radiation treatments. Living in a cramped Orlando hotel room, the family has no plans to return to the island. "We are staying for good," Betancourt said. "I cannot get the best medical help in Puerto Rico, and it has become even worse after Hurricane Maria."
Luz Brenda Lebron leans on a shopping cart after receiving a notification that she does not qualify for aid provided by the state to Puerto Ricans who were affected by Hurricane Maria, in Orlando on Dec. 13.
Lebron arrived from Puerto Rico with her husband Jose E. Torres and three children after Hurricane Maria hit the island in late September.
People attend a Spanish Mass conducted by Father Jose Rodriguez at the Episcopal Church Jesus of Nazareth, in Orlando on Nov. 26.
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