Hurricane Maria evacuees forced to leave Dartmouth hotel

May 7, 2018

Families staying at a Dartmouth hotel after fleeing the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico were recently forced to relocate elsewhere.

According to the United Way of Greater New Bedford’s Darlene Spencer, 11 families had to leave the Dartmouth Best Western in April. It was the result of the town bylaw which limits stays to 28 days.

Spencer said some families have relocated to hotels owned by the same company in Swansea, while others have stayed within the greater New Bedford area due to concerns with school enrollment, jobs, and other factors.

The families had been receiving Transitional Shelter Assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to cover housing costs. The program provides short-term lodging assistance to evacuees who cannot return home for an extended or indeterminate period of time following a disaster.

Normally, FEMA assistance is only offered for a limited period of time, but benefits had been recently extended for all Hurricane Maria disaster survivors through June. At the time evacuees in Dartmouth were forced to leave, they were also dealing with uncertainty regarding the future of the benefits.

Spencer said it is up to hotels which accept TSA funds to ensure guest stays comply with local laws.

When the hotel was contacted by phone on May 7, Bryan Rizza said he is the hotel’s new general manager as of May 7 and had no other details about the evacuees.

About 230 families relocated to the Greater New Bedford area following Maria from Puerto Rico. Some have since returned home, but about 200 still live in the region, according to Spencer.