Sen. Bill Nelson in Tampa, meets with families displaced by Hurricane Maria

Sen. Bill Nelson in Tampa, meets with families displaced by Hurricane Maria

Sen. Bill Nelson in Tampa, meets with families displaced by Hurricane Maria

Senator Bill Nelson (left) listens to members of five Puerto Rican families displaced from the island by Hurricane Maria and still living in the Tampa Bay area during a meeting at Tampa Underground, Thursday, May 3, 2018. (Adria Iraheta, staff)

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Senator Bill Nelson made a trip to Tampa on May 3 to meet with several Puerto Rican families displaced from the island by Hurricane Maria.

Nelson met with families at Tampa Underground Nelson said he was unaware so many families wanted to stay Nelson flying to Puerto Rico Friday

Nelson met with five families, all from very different backgrounds at the Tampa Underground, along with the organizations that have been helping them.

While FEMA announced that it had approved an extension on housing assistance for families displaced by Maria last year, their big questions for Nelson surrounded the possibility of additional government resources to continue long-term disaster relief efforts.

Those questions weigh heavy on people like Nicolas Rodriguez, who more than half a year after the hurricane is still living in a hotel with his wife and two kids.

“It’s been a bit complicated in finding a place that can open its doors to us," Rodriguez said. "A lot of the places are full and don’t have anything available until July or August."

Meanwhile, single mom Ingrid Montes has already found an apartment, but said the process was anything but easy as she struggled to take care of her daughter with special needs.

“The first four months were really hard, because I was trying to do everything with her, who gets restless and isn’t really aware of what’s going on. She needs her own space, so it was a bit hard,” Montes said.

Nelson listened to their stories during their visit, and said he wasn’t aware that so many displaced families in Tampa Bay wanted to stay permanently.

Organizations like Mujeres Restauradas Por Dios that have been helping the families wanted a promise from the senator — a promise for more funding and resources from the government in the future.

“You can’t count on being reimbursed,” Nelson said.

“No, not reimbursed. [More funding and resources] moving forward,” said Dammy Sanchez, founder of one of the organizations helping the residents.

“We’ll check that and see,” Nelson replied.

The senator will travel to Puerto Rico on Friday to see what needs still need to be met on the island.

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