Murphy Introduces Bill to Help Florida Address Health Care, Housing Challenges Due to Hurricane Maria
Legislation would help states that take in hurricane victims from Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands
U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park, Fla., today introduced legislation to help provide budgetary relief to states like Florida as they face challenges like rising health care costs and affordable housing shortages due to more American citizens relocating from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria. The bill, the Disaster Displacement Act, contains provisions similar to legislation passed in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 as states took in fellow Americans who evacuated from the Gulf Coast. Murphy’s bill, which is cosponsored by U.S. Congressman Darren Soto of Florida, is an identical companion to legislation introduced in the U.S. Senate by Senator Bill Nelson.
“Florida is doing the right thing by taking in thousands of our fellow American citizens whose lives were uprooted as a result of Hurricane Maria, and the federal government should have our state’s back,” said Murphy. “Just as we did after Hurricane Katrina, we should give states who receive hurricane victims the resources they need to provide for their current and new residents. Central Florida has received a significant percentage of the Americans leaving Puerto Rico, creating greater demand for health care services and quality, affordable housing. I’m proud to work with Senator Bill Nelson to ensure that Florida gets the resources it needs to help our neighbors in need.”
Since Maria devastated Puerto Rico in late September, at least 90,000 individuals from Puerto Rico have arrived in Florida, with many moving to central Florida. The number of American citizens from Puerto Rico who will relocate to Florida and other states is expected to increase significantly in the coming months.
Under Murphy’s bill, if an individual relocates from Puerto Rico or the U.S. Virgin Islands to Florida, and otherwise meets the eligibility requirements for Medicaid, the individual would be enrolled in Medicaid through an expedited process, and the federal government would cover the full cost of his or her care for at least 24 months. In the absence of this legislation, the State of Florida would be required to pay nearly 40 percent of the cost of care, straining the state’s budget. This provision is modeled on what Congress enacted in 2005 after Hurricane Katrina for states that took in evacuees from Louisiana.
Additionally, the infusion of new residents is adding pressure to the already serious challenge of access to quality, affordable housing in central Florida. To help alleviate the problem, Murphy’s bill would authorize local housing authorities—like the Orange County Housing Authority, the Seminole County Housing Authority, and the Orlando Housing Authority—to seek additional funding under a variety of existing federal programs. The local housing authorities could use this funding to help residents, whether new or existing, rent or buy housing to meet their needs.
###U.S. Congresswoman Stephanie Murphy represents Florida’s Seventh Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, where she serves on the House Armed Services Committee and Small Business Committee. The district includes all of Seminole County and much of northern Orange County, including downtown Orlando, Maitland, Winter Park, and the University of Central Florida. Previously, Murphy was a businesswoman and college instructor who also served as a national security specialist in the Office of the Secretary of Defense where she received numerous awards for her distinguished service, including the Secretary of Defense Medal for Exceptional Civilian Service. Murphy lives in Winter Park with her husband and two children.