Vieques and Culebra got special mention in President Trump’s declaration that Puerto Rico is a “major disaster” zone over the weekend. The White House approved 10 more Puerto Rico towns for federal support this week.
The additional towns:
Canóvanas and Loíza are also eligible for the federal disaster individual assistance program.
Governor Rossello’s initial estimate of hurricane damage to the territory is about $600 million. This includes damage to the water and power authorities, but does not include damage to the Island’s highways.
That estimate also doesn’t reflect the cost to the island of losing income from tourism and production. These costs could be significant if power, water, and sewage services remain off for weeks or months, as some experts predict.
On the other hand, if federal funding is sufficient to replace outdated facilities with up-to-date technology, Puerto Rico could end up in a stronger position for rebuilding its economy.
Both the power authority and the water authority have failed to keep their facilities up to date. Some of the hurricane damage resulted from movement of debris and overgrown trees which should not have been near power lines. But Irma was the strongest hurricane ever recorded in Puerto Rico. The Center for Disaster Management and Risk Reduction Technology reports that Irma will probably also be the most costly in the Caribbean as a whole. Estimates for total losses, including individual homes as well as businesses and public facilities, could be as high as $15 billion.
Federal funding for Puerto Rico will be at 75% for most kinds of assistance, but debris removal will be funded at 90% federal share and emergency services at 100% for the first 30 days. There are currently about 10,000 Department of Defense personnel serving Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Department of Labor is preparing disaster unemployment and displaced worker support.