Washington DC - The Federal Emergency Management Administration will award $13 billion in Puerto Rico disaster aid to rebuild the power grid and education facilities, announced the White House. The announcement comes near the three-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria slamming the island, taking 3000 lives and causing more than $100 billion in damage.
“Puerto Rico needs these funds to rebuild from hurricanes, multiple natural disasters, a debt crisis and rising joblessness and poverty,” said Eric LeCompte, Executive Director of the religious development group Jubilee USA. “In order to fully recover, Puerto Rico will need more disaster aid and debt relief."
The US Territory dealt with a series of earthquakes earlier this year and continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Last July, 11 religious leaders representing more than 95% of Puerto Rico’s population wrote Congress on the growing challenges facing the island. The letter asked for additional disaster recovery monies, measures to bring back manufacturing jobs to Puerto Rico and the authorization of $1.2 billion for Nutrition Assistance Program benefits that impact 1.5 million people on the island. The letter was signed by leaders of the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical Churches. The Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities (Caritas) and the General Bible Society also added their names to the letter to Congress.
Since 2015, Puerto Rico's religious leaders and Jubilee USA pressed Congress and the White House on debt relief. When Hurricanes Maria and Irma decimated Puerto Rico in 2017, disaster recovery efforts became intertwined with debt relief.
“Puerto Rico's debt crisis and natural disaster vulnerabilities are flip sides of the same coin,” LeCompte added. "Debt crisis solutions must ensure Puerto Rico is prepared to respond, withstand and recover from natural disasters and external shocks."
According to the White House, the additional recovery funds bring total Puerto Rico Hurricane Maria relief to $26 billion.
Read Jubilee USA's Puerto Rico religious leader press release.
Read the Puerto Rico religious leader letter.
Read the Puerto Rico release and letter in español.