Puerto Rico House speaker urges recognition of Puerto Rican professionals in Florida
SAN JUAN – The speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, Carlos “Johnny” Méndez, stressed the need of the more than 270,000 Puerto Ricans who outmigrated to Florida after the passage of Hurricane María to find housing, education, employment and to benefit from a temporary reciprocity program for professional certifications.
“Many of the Puerto Ricans currently living with family members in Orlando and Kissimmee need all kinds of assistance from state and local governments. Because of the hastiness of their departure, most do not have basic health insurance. This is an area in which the governments of Puerto Rico and Florida must work together, to pave the way for reciprocity on health coverage, for example,” the House speaker wrote in an opinion piece published in the Orlando Sentinel.
In his commentary, the legislative leader said his proposed reciprocity program would enable Puerto Ricans certified as real estate agents, nurses, pharmacy assistants and automotive technicians, among others, to immediately pursue careers in Florida.
Méndez Núñez acknowledged the efforts of Florida Gov. Rick Scott in seeking aid to provide temporary housing to the thousands of Puerto Ricans; however, the speaker assured, much more is needed.
“The clear majority of Puerto Ricans who moved in the past three months are in cramped spaces; sometimes four or five people are living in one-bedroom apartments. Something must be done to further help those without a home,” the speaker said.
“Action is also required to help with our children’s education. In Puerto Rico, the new school year starts in early August, which means the children who migrated to the Sunshine State started classes with several disadvantages, including lack of time to prepare; limited, if any, financial resources to purchase school materials; and a completely unfamiliar educational system,” added Méndez, stressing that “counseling must be available to cope with this dramatic change.”
The lawmaker said another element that must be addressed is the “mounting economic pressure” on families.
“Getting a job quickly after relocating is imperative, as well as resolving outstanding debts and other financial tie-ins on the island. Therefore, I propose that financial institutions in Puerto Rico begin a process of settling balances and adjusting notes to accommodate the new reality,” he said.