Puerto Rico Struggles to Rebuild from Hurricanes Say Religious Leaders

Washington DC - Hurricane Maria pummeled Puerto Rico last September 20th. According to the Associated Press, 60,000 thousand homes still have temporary or blue-tarp-covered roofs that would not survive a Category 1 hurricane. Tens of thousands of people across the island still lack access to housing or reliable electricity. After the hurricanes more than 130,000 people migrated to US States away from the island.

"The hurricane anniversaries urge us to renew our commitment to assist the poorest among our people to rebuild their lives with dignity," noted San Juan's Catholic Archbishop Roberto González. "We all belong to one human family and need to care for one another."

Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico saw a loss of emergency response and medical personnel due to austerity cuts imposed on the island wrestling with a $72 billion debt crisis. As hurricane recovery continues, Puerto Rico lumbers through a bankruptcy process designed by Congress.

"Our people feel in a state of uncertainty a year after Hurricane Maria and we are suffering from austerity measures from the debt crisis," stated Reverend Heriberto Martinez, the General Secretary of Puerto Rico's Bible Society and leader of a coalition to relieve the island's debt. "The impact of the hurricanes is that our people are leaving the island to look for employment and opportunities to improve the lives of their families." ‎

Rebuilding and recovery estimates for Puerto Rico range between $95 billion and $140 billion. The Governor and the island's congressionally mandated fiscal oversight board are requesting a rebuilding package of $125 billion. Over the last year, Congress and the federal government approved about $35 billion of aid for the island.

"Congress and the White House need to come through with the remaining aid so Puerto Rico can rebuild to withstand the next hurricane," shared Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. LeCompte testified to Congress and Puerto Rico's oversight board on Puerto Rico's financial crisis. "If a minor hurricane hit the island today, we'd see great suffering that could have been prevented. The clock is ticking." ‎