Hurricane Fiona Damage Adds to Puerto Rico Aid Needs, Debt Woes

Hurricane Fiona caused floods and cut power across Puerto Rico as more than 2 feet of rain fell on the island. The category 1 storm - which strengthened to category 3 after hitting the island - comes five years after Hurricanes Maria and Irma led to 3,000 deaths and more than $100 billion in damages. Since then, Congress allocated $55 billion in disaster aid. The aid is still not fully disbursed and deployed. Additional recovery needs for Hurricanes Maria and Irma are estimated at $50 billion.  

“Fiona is the latest disaster to hit Puerto Rico,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA Network. Jubilee USA Network has worked on debt and disaster relief efforts for the island since 2015. “Puerto Rico will need more aid to address the damages from Hurricane Fiona, the island's child poverty crisis and recovery from previous disasters."

In March, Puerto Rico concluded a bankruptcy process that took over four years and yielded cuts of about 50% of the island's $72 billion debt. In a statement, 26 Puerto Rico and US religious leaders welcomed the agreement but laid out a comprehensive economic agenda needed to prevent future debt crises. The plan includes building quality and sustainable infrastructure.

“Storms will continue to strike Puerto Rico and the electricity grid must be repaired to withstand future storms," stated LeCompte. "While debt relief for Puerto Rico is helpful, not enough debt was cut for Puerto Rico to be prepared for situations like Hurricane Fiona."

The religious leaders’ Puerto Rico plan calls for expanding manufacturing jobs, increasing disaster relief and winning the same funding as US states receive for nutrition, child poverty, health, disability and tax relief programs.

Read Religious Leaders Statement on Puerto Rico Debt Deal and Way Forward here.

Read Jubilee USA's Press Release on US and Puerto Rico Religious Leaders Statement here.