Stressful first Christmas in Connecticut for hurricane refugees


HARTFORD, Conn. (WTNH)–Hundreds of Hurricane Maria refugees are spending their first Christmas in Connecticut, with some arriving within the past week.  25 families are living in a hotel in Hartford but the federal aid they receive is set to run out in mid January.

98-pound ‘Aston’ is one of the hundreds of hurricane refugees now living in Connecticut. He’s now also practically a full time therapy dog for the 25 families from Puerto Rico and especially their kids, living at the Red Roof Inn in downtown Hartford.Related Content:Connecticut State Troopers return from Puerto Rico

Aston’s owner is 38-year-old Efrain Padua, who brought the Great Dane and his wife and three kids from the island a week ago. Before the hurricane, they had a nice home with ten acres of land. He had a good job. “I had coffee trees, banana trees, yams, I had a beautiful crop. When the hurricane came it destroyed everything. The house got destroyed, all the crop got destroyed, I lost my job, I had no way to make money.”

Efrain is luckier than many.

He lived in Connecticut before he was married, and his former employer is giving him a job. But he like everyone else here is encountering major relocation problems because of the waiting lists for housing and the high price of apartments.  This is going on in all of Connecticut’s major cities but is especially critical in Hartford, New Britain, New Haven and Waterbury.Related Content: Federal funding for hurricane refugees to run out in 3 weeks

Today Efrain brought the plight of all the families to Connecticut’s senior U.S. Senator, Richard Blumenthal, when he visited with the families.  Efrain saying,  “We’re not asking for much, we’re just asking for a little push, permanent housing so we can get started again with our lives.”

But first these famlies need some assurance that FEMA will continue to pay to house them temporarily. The funding for the hotel expires on January 14th and congress has gone home for the holidays without taking action.

Blumenthal is co sponsoring a bill that would provide $195 billion in aid to help rebuild Puerto Rico.

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