President Trump declared Puerto Rico a “major disaster” zone after Hurricane Irma sideswiped the U.S. Territory.
Federal funding for individuals in Vieques and Culebra will support grants for temporary housing and emergency repairs, as well as low-cost loans for home repairs to uninsured property. The goal is to get people back into their homes.
Culabra and Vieques is also eligible for federal funding on a cost-sharing basis through municipal governments and nonprofit organizations. These funds will be directed toward emergency services and rebuilding of essential services.
All municipalities may also receive federal funding — again on a cost-sharing basis — for general “disaster mitigation.”
Some of the issues Puerto Rico is still facing include impassible roads, loss of electric power, and loss of water and sewage service. Although Irma hit Puerto Rico with a glancing blow rather than making landfall on the Island, the territory’s infrastructure was already in bad shape. Repairs will be very costly, and the territory is very short on funds. It is predicted that residents may be without power for months.
Both Governor Rossello and Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon have described the disaster as an “opportunity.” If the Island can come up with funds to modernize critical infrastructure, they could not only limit the health issues that come with lengthy lack of access to power and water, but also make Puerto Rico more appealing to business owners and investors.
Stopgap efforts could be expensive and make things worse in the long run.
Individuals can apply for assistance at http://www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA(3362).