FEMA aid slow to reach Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands

FEMA has funded far fewer recovery efforts in the islands than in the mainland, report shows

Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria (Credit: Getty Images)
Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria (Credit: Getty Images)

Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have been slow to receive recovery aid following Hurricanes Maria and Irma, according to a new examination of FEMA records.

Of more than 9,000 requests to fund long-term recovery projects in Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has only funded 190. And in the Virgin Islands, only 218 such projects of more than 1,500 requests have received funding, according to the New York Times.

Both hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the American islands in 2017, causing an estimated $94.4 billion in real estate damage to Puerto Rico and $7.5 billion to the U.S. Virgin Islands.

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By contrast, in the two years since Hurricane Harvey hit the Gulf Coast, FEMA funded about 3,700 recovery projects.

“I hate to make the distinction about American versus not American, but at the end of the day, we’re not being treated the same way as other Americans are being treated,” Dyma Williams, the acting CEO at the Gov. Juan F. Luis Hospital on St. Croix, told the New York Times.

Municipalities, nonprofits and other charities will typically pay for construction and repairs following a natural disaster such as a hurricane or wildfire, and FEMA will then reimburse them, officials said. But that can be challenging for islands like Puerto Rico. [NYT]Katherine Kallergis