New Bedford is one of several cities experiencing a wave of new arrivals from Puerto Rico, following the devastating Hurricane Maria. New Bedford’s mayor, John Mitchell, is asking for state and federal assistance to defray the cost of providing education and housing for the displaced families.
Mitchell said students have already begun enrolling in public schools-- 56 students who fled Puerto Rico are currently attending.
According to Mitchell, virtually all of them need additional language services and many need special education services.
“We want to do our part in helping folks with the transition from the storm, but at the same time, we need help from the state and federal government,” Mitchell said.
A lack of affordable housing is another concern for Puerto Ricans arriving in New Bedford.
“We don’t have the existing housing stock to accommodate what we think will be an even larger volume of people who will come into the city once flights are restored between San Juan and the northeast,” Mitchell said.
New Bedford agencies like the United Way and Catholic Social Services have already received numerous requests for housing assistance from displaced Puerto Rican families, according to Mitchell.
“We also know that our housing authority has received a number of applications,” Mitchell said, before adding that there is already about a 2,000-person waitlist for subsidized housing.
Mitchell is seeking emergency housing vouchers through state programs, like the Massachusetts Rental Voucher Program, for what could become long-term stays. For schools, the mayor is asking for state money for newly enrolled students, who missed an October 1 deadline for schools to request state aid for students.