Florida Gov. Rick Scott receives a briefing in Puerto Rico. (Office of Florida Gov. Rick Scott)

Orlando Sentinel

December 20, 2017

by Gov. Rick Scott
Guest Columnist

Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans moved to Florida after Hurricane Maria impacted the island earlier this year, and for many of them, this will be their first time away from home during the holidays. As I travel across our state, I have heard from countless Floridians about how important it is to support these families. That’s why we took quick action to assist Puerto Rico days before Maria hit the island, and we’ve been welcoming families ever since.

Since Oct. 3, more than 264,000 people have traveled to Florida from Puerto Rico and with them, they have brought the hope of rebuilding their lives and the desire to keep pressing forward. These families left a battered island that is still struggling to restore power and provide food and medicine to its people. Florida is a melting pot with more than 250 languages spoken and we proudly welcome people from around the world every day. And now, Florida has been focused on how we can continue to help our brothers and sisters from Puerto Rico. In fact, Florida was the only state willing to enter into a host-state agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help us better serve families impacted by Hurricane Maria.

To provide families with needed resources, I ordered the opening of disaster relief centers at Miami International Airport and Orlando International Airport. These state-run locations bring together volunteer, local, state and federal organizations to provide relief, and have helped more than 34,000 individuals following Maria’s impact.

Also, during this time, we have remained in constant communication with Puerto Rican officials and held roundtables with the Puerto Rican community to discuss ongoing relief efforts. Since Maria’s landfall, I have twice visited Puerto Rico to offer the state’s disaster recovery expertise, and last month, I directed the State Emergency Response Team to activate to enhance coordination between governments. We’ve also deployed staff from several state agencies to assist in recovery missions on the island.

Florida is home to the most caring people in the world who want to help our fellow Americans whenever we are called upon. I am humbled to see so many volunteer organizations and individuals helping those in need, and we will continue to reach out to every family coming to our state to ensure they are greeted with compassion and support. It is our responsibility to make sure that we are working together to provide the best solutions for these families, so they can raise their children and live the American Dream in Florida.