Puerto Rican Evacuees Post Maria

Hurricane Irma, a category 4 storm, struck Florida on September 10th after skirting the northern coast of the American island of Puerto Rico leaving 1 million people on the island without power.  Just 10 days later Hurricane Maria, also a category 4 storm, made direct landfall on Puerto Rico causing widespread devastation. 


While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) tried to rush aid to Puerto Rico, the location and devastation only exacerbated the difficult response and recovery process.  In October, FEMA authorized the funding for Puerto Ricans who evacuated to Florida and New York to receive Temporary Shelter Assistance (TSA) since hotels and available shelter on the island were uninhabitable.  Florida’s counties, along with existing significant Puerto Rican communities, worked to prepare housing and school space for incoming evacuees.  FAC has worked with the Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) to determine exactly how many Puerto Rican individuals and households have evacuated to each county.

Since late November in 2017, DEM has routinely collected data from FEMA on households that evacuated Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and registered with the federal agency for assistance. All individual households in these reports consist of evacuees that have indicated on their FEMA case as being in Florida.  As of January 30th, there were currently 16,007 individuals, or 7,292 households, who have evacuated from Puerto Rico and currently are in Florida.  The five counties with the most individual evacuees are: Orange (4,362); Osceola (2,531); Polk (1,391); Miami-Dade (1,373) and Hillsborough (1,174).

All evacuee households from Puerto Rico staying in Florida are either located at a current mailing address (CMA) or are checked into a hotel. Those checked into hotels are not always identified by FEMA as currently residing in the county where the hotel is located.

An updated, full county by county breakdown that reflects both the total number of households and the total number of individuals currently located in each county in Florida—broken down by those with a CMA located within the county, and those checked into a hotel within the same county—will continue to be available at www.facresearch.com. The data presented below is current as of January 30, 2018.

Economists from both the University of Florida[1] and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College City University of New York[2] have estimated total post-Maria migration from Puerto Rico to Florida to be between 40,000 and 50,000. According to data from the U.S. Census Bureau, annual migration from Puerto Rico to Florida between 2013 and 2016 ranged from between 23,409 and 31,270 individuals per year. Compared to these estimates, the 16,007 individuals registered with FEMA represent the difference between recent annual migration in past years and current estimates of post-Hurricane Maria exodus.


[1] Paul Brinkmann. “How many Puerto Ricans have moved to Florida? State’s numbers questioned.” Orlando Sentinel. January 6, 2018. Available online at: <http://www.orlandosentinel.com/business/brinkmann-on-business/os-bz-puerto-rico-numbers-20180105-story.html>.

[2] Edwin Meléndez and Jennifer Hinojosa. “Estimates of Post-Hurricane Maria Exodus from Puerto Rico.” Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College City University of New York. October 2017. Available online at: <https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/RB2017-01-POST-MARIA%20EXODUS_V3.pdf>. & Edwin Meléndez, Jennifer Hinojosa, and Nashia Roman. “Post-Hurricane Maria Exodus from Puerto Rico and School Enrollment in Florida.” Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College City University of New York. December 2017. Available online at: <https://centropr.hunter.cuny.edu/sites/default/files/CentroReport-RB2017-02-POST-MARIA-FL-PR-EXODUS%20%281%29.pdf>.