UPDATE: The Hill seems to have been premature in its reporting, and/or didn’t fact check. While it is true that people evacuated from foreign soil by the US State Department (and possibly other agencies) have to pay and have their passports restricted, this doesn’t seem to apply to Puerto Rico (which is within the US) and there is no evidence anyone has been charged for being evacuated.
The only good news here is that they aren’t being required to pledge a pound of flesh — just their passports.
People evacuated by the U.S. from hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico must sign promissory notes ensuring they fully repay transportation costs to the Defense Department, according to the State Department…
Limits are placed on the passports of evacuees who sign the notes, the State Department's website says.
“Upon evacuation, a Department of State official must limit an evacuee’s passport. In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note,” the website reads.
Here’s a the official US policy page:
PROCEDURES FOR EVACUATION:
• Anyone evacuated on U.S.-government coordinated transport, including charter andmilitary flights, must sign an Evacuee Manifest and Promissory Note (form DS-5528) noteprior to departure.
• The promissory note obligates an evacuated person to repay the cost of the transportation to the U.S. government
.• Upon evacuation, a Department of State official must limit an evacuee’s passport. In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note.HOW TO REPAY A PROMISSORY LOAN:•
Promissory loan repayments are arranged by the Comptroller and Global Financial Services office in Charleston, South Carolina. Please allow at least one week after your evacuation before contacting this office.
The fee is apparently discretionary, but has not been waived for Puerto Rico as far as has been reported. As The Hill reports
The notes fall under a longstanding but discretionary policy meant to ensure that evacuees pay transportation costs, which are based on “the price of the last commercial one-way, full-fare (not discounted) economy ticket prior to the crisis.”
All this said, its unclear how many people are being evacuated from Puerto Rico, from where in Puerto Rico the evacuations are taking place, or what evacuation efforts are being conducted.