Many of the approximately thirteen thousand residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who arrived in Connecticut after hurricanes Maria and Irma are struggling to meet their basic needs, including shelter, food, medical care, and jobs, a survey commissioned by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving finds.
Conducted by the University of Connecticut's Institute for Latina/o Caribbean and Latin American Studies and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, the survey was designed to understand the long-term impact of displacement on Puerto Rican households in the greater Hartford region. According to the survey, more than 70 percent of those Puerto Ricans who relocated to Connecticut have incomes of less than $30,000, and while some initially relied on assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the majority of those displaced by the storms turned to local nonprofit organizations, school districts, and family members for support.
The survey also found that more than half (56 percent) of the roughly thirteen hundred respondents said it was very likely (36 percent) or somewhat likely (22 percent) that their friends and family would relocate from the island to Connecticut, with most of them planning to stay with family members already in the state; that nearly three-fifths of respondents indicated that housing was a first-order need for displaced persons and 16 percent saying it was a second-order need; and that 20 percent of respondents indicated food was a first-order need for displaced persons and 35 percent saying it was a second-order need.
"The Hartford region has one of the highest concentrations of people of Puerto Rican origin outside Puerto Rico and last year's hurricanes brought thousands more to the region, many of whom will likely stay," said Scott Gaul, director of research and evaluation at HFPG, which awarded $230,000 in grants from its Respond-Rebuild-Renew Fund to provide support services to residents of the region affected by the influx of displaced persons. "The hurricanes were an unprecedented event, but we can anticipate similar crises will happen again. The survey is one tool to help the Hartford region understand the needs of evacuees and the potential long-term impacts of displacement."