The Department of Housing and Urban Development announced Thursday that it was awarding more than $1.5 billion in aid to help Puerto Rico recover from the damages wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria last year. HUD Deputy Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude joined Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló to make the announcement, marking Patenaude’s third trip to the island since the hurricanes hit.
The funds are being provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant—Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program, and are targeted to “support long-term recovery of seriously damaged housing and local businesses in Puerto Rico,” according to HUD’s media statement.
HUD Secretary Ben Carson said, "President Trump and the entire HUD family stand with our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico to help them recover from these devastating hurricanes. 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."
"On behalf of the many thousands of survivors here in Puerto Rico, I want to express our appreciation to the Administration and HUD for recognizing the tremendous needs that remain in so many of our neighborhoods,” said Governor Rosselló. “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 said, "The $1.5 billion in CDBG-DR funding that we are announcing originates from the first Continuing Resolution (CR) that we advocated for and approved in Congress last September, 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."
In spite of federal aid, Puerto Rico has been struggling to recover from the brutal 2017 hurricane season. Last month the Orlando Weekly reported on how evacuees from Puerto Rico were accelerating Florida’s already difficult affordable housing crisis, with 300,000 Puerto Ricans having fled to Florida after the storms and only 18 affordable rental units available per 100 low-income families, according to a National Low Income Housing Coalition study.
Puerto Rico is also headed for a likely foreclosure epidemic, as reported in December by the New York Times. That piece reported that about one-third of the Puerto Rico’s 425,000 homeowners were behind on their mortgage payments. Tens of thousands had not made payments for months as 2017 ended, and about 90,000 borrowers became delinquent as a consequence of Hurricane Maria, the Times report said, quoting reports from data firm Black Knight Inc.
HUD’s newly announced grant will undoubtedly make a huge impact on Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts. Time will tell whether more help will be needed.