U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson recently announced HUD has approved a $1.5 billion disaster recovery plan aimed at helping Puerto Rican citizens recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Puerto Rico’s plan focuses primarily on the restoration of damaged and destroyed homes, businesses and infrastructure. The territory's long-term recovery is supported through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant, according to HUD.
“Today, we turn an important corner in our long-term effort to rebuild hard-hit communities in Puerto Rico,” Secretary Carson said. “This is just the beginning – billions in federal disaster recovery funding will soon be put to work and help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico rebuild their homes and their lives.”
On September 8, 2017, President Donald Trump signed the Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act, which appropriated $7.4 billion in CDBG-DR funding for major disasters declared in 2017.
This was followed in February with a $1.5 billion grant to “address the serious unmet needs on the island,” and a $18.5 billion grant in April to further support recovery in Puerto Rico, according to HUD.
These funds, paired with the newly created disaster recovery plan, could potentially bring relief to a territory that has undergone many tribulations in the last year.
Earlier this month, Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition members, LatinoJustice PRLDEF and Faith in Action filed a lawsuit against the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the U.S. District Court of Massachusetts.
The lawsuit alleged FEMA planned to prematurely abandon its assistance to thousands of Puerto Ricans displaced by Hurricane Maria when it discontinued its Transitional Shelter Assistance on June 30, 2018.
A judge determined that storm victims within the TSA program were entitled to reasonable notice of the termination of the temporary housing assistance, and has temporarily halted evictions.
HUD said the recovery plan has the potential to help many Puerto Ricans struggling to find housing, and that it plans to publish guidance rules to determine use of the funds.
The provisions of these funds are listed below:
- Housing ($1 billion) – Puerto Rico is investing more than $1 billion to restore the island’s severely damaged housing stock. As part of the plan, Puerto Rico intends to provide up to $120,000 to rebuild destroyed homes for each qualified homeowner and up to $48,000 to repair each eligible damaged property. Additional housing investments include funding for rental assistance ($10 million), specifically for properties serving the elderly and other vulnerable households. Puerto Rico has also proposed a $36 million Home Emergency Resilience Program that provides up to $6,000 per household for individual solar appliances to help families.
- Economic Revitalization ($145 million) - Puerto Rico’s recovery plan provides $145 million for several activities to help revitalize the post-disaster economy, with grants of up to $50,000 for eligible businesses. The plan also targets grants for small business incubators and accelerators ($10 million), awards of up to $2.5 million for each eligible incubator operation, a workforce training program ($10 million) awards of up to $2 million to train eligible Section 3 residents, and a construction and commercial revolving loan program ($35 million) that will provide up to $1 million per loan to eligible businesses.
- Infrastructure ($100 million) - To support the repair of damaged infrastructure on the island, Puerto Rico intends to target $100 million to match federal investments through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Public Assistance and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program projects.