The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) today announced it has awarded more than $1.5 billion to owners of Puerto Rico’s hurricane-ravaged housing and local businesses. The island is still in full recovery mode after Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Mayor Ernesto Irizarry Salvá of Utuado, a town in the mountains of Puerto Rico, said his community was still in disaster mode, with 70 percent of the city’s 33,000 residents living without power. According to ABC news coverage on January 24, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers reported that a total of 450,000 residents of the American territory are still without electricity.
Mortgage lender Freddie Mac estimated in October that damage costs would fall somewhere between $45 billion and $95 billion, and residential real estate, which was thought to be among the biggest drivers of economic loss, could be between $25 billion and $55 billion.
The recovery funds come from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery Program (CDBGDR). HUD relied on data from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to determine the need, and HUD’s analysis of said data found that thousands of middle and lower income homeowners and renters experienced serious damage to their homes and were not insured, or were only partially insured, for their losses.
“President Trump and the entire HUD family stand with our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico to help them recover from these devastating hurricanes,” said HUD Secretary Ben Carson in a press statement today. “These recovery funds will help repair damaged homes and businesses. As local leaders, along with their citizens, develop their recovery plans, HUD will reduce regulatory barriers and remove any unnecessary roadblocks to speed long-term recovery.”
The Puerto Rican Governor, Ricardo Rossello said: “This grant will make a huge difference in repairing damaged homes and businesses and facilitating the social and economic recovery here in the island.”
Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón added the $1.5 billion in CDBGDR funding was out of a total of $7.4 billion that was assigned to HUD to assist in the aftermath of natural disasters.
“Today’s announcement is just another example of our ongoing efforts in Congress to allocate federal funding that helps mitigate the hurricanes’ disastrous effects and consequences,” she said.
Puerto Rican residents were alarmed earlier this week when they were told that FEMA planned to halt new shipments of water and food to the island. This led some to believe the agency was leaving the island altogether, but the organization reassured Puerto Ricans that this was not the case in a news report from CNN.