Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 hurricane with winds up to 90 miles per hour, made landfall in Puerto Rico on Sunday, September 18th, just days before the 5th anniversary of Hurricane Maria.
Nearly 1.5 million people were left without power on Sunday. Some 100,000 customers had power restored Monday morning. Only 30% of residents have reliable water service.
Heavy rain and high winds are expected to continue through Monday night, with catastrophic flooding, landslides, and mudslides predicted. Governor Pierluisi is asking residents to stay home or in shelters for safety and to reduce emergency support needs.
The emergency declaration allows federal agencies to provide needed funds and help. The Office for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resiliency, or COR3, reported in a recent congressional hearing that nearly $80 billion in federal recovery funding was allocated to Puerto Rico for recovery from Hurricane Maria and subsequent disasters. However, less than $67.673 billion has been obligated and just $24.473 billion disbursed.
One of the main problems was that FEMA is set up to reimburse funds, not to provide needed funds ahead of the work. Municipalities in. Puerto Rico have not generally had the funds required to spend for hurricane recovery up front. The reimbursement has therefore been of limited value.
The emergency declaration is intended to speed up the federal response, although President Trump also declared an emergency in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, after Hurricane Maria, and response at that time was recognized as extraordinarily slow relative to typical turn-around time in the states.