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Housing Grants Denied And Puerto Rico's Urban/Suburban Divide

Mar 23, 2018

Six months after Hurricane Maria, the recovery effort in Puerto Rico is well underway. Still, the island  faces many critical long-term challenges.

Adrian Florido is an NPR reporter based in San Juan. Here are highlights from a recent conversation he had with CT Public Radio’s Diane Orson.

On repairing thousands of damaged homes…. 

“We’re hearing about a lot of families who are being denied repair grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, FEMA. One of the reasons is that so much of the housing in Puerto Rico is informal. People don’t have title necessarily because they may have built their homes on property that belongs to their parents or they may live in squatter communities. You can’t get a FEMA grant unless you can prove you own your property. Its an unresolved question and it's going to be a huge issue.”

On restoring power...

“The government is now working on the last seven percent of the island’s customers that are still without power. That represents about 100,000 customers. And if we know that on average a household here has maybe three people, that could be as many as 300,000 or 350,000 people who still have no power six months after the storm - especially in the mountains, high up in the mountains. And some of those people could still be waiting a couple of months for their power, because they live in really challenging terrain that’s going to take a long time to get to.”

On the mood in Puerto Rico...

“It really does vary. In a lot of the urban areas the feeling is that things are getting back to normal, somewhat. But then you go out into some of these rural communities in the mountains, actually a deep sense of desperation is setting in because they’re still waiting for power and electricity. And it's almost gotten worse because they’ve waited so long that they feel things are never going to improve for them. The island’s government says ‘We’ll get there eventually,’ but when it’s been six months, it’s sort of like – ‘I’ll believe it when I see it.’”