PUERTO RICO UPDATE – February 7, 2019
A 5.0 magnitude earthquake hit southern Puerto Rico this past Monday. The ongoing shakes continue to raise concerns regarding unstable infrastructure in a region that has been hit by earthquakes every day for more than a month. Earlier in January, the island was hit by 6.4 magnitude earthquake that knocked out power and caused significant damage. These quakes are occurring as the island recuperates from the damage inflicted by two ferocious hurricanes in 2017. The earthquakes that have rattled Puerto Rico since December 28, 2019, have left people with a nervous uncertainty about their safety and their future, which continues to be compromised by the slow pace of federal hurricane relief efforts. Moreover, these earthquakes have caused significant damage to some of the island’s electrical infrastructure. Given these extraordinary circumstances, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez led other members of the U.S. Congress in sending a letter to the Executive Director of Fiscal Management and Oversight Board (FMOB) for Puerto Rico to urge them consider renegotiating the current Restructuring Support Agreement (RSA) for Puerto Rico’s Energy Power Authority (PREPA) and amend PREPA’s Fiscal Plan. The Fiscal Plan needs to be changed to take into account lost capacity and the economic effects of the earthquakes.
Today house lawmakers approve an emergency aid package supporting Puerto Rico: House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita M. Lowey introduced an emergency supplemental appropriations bill to provide support to Puerto Rico that was passed today on the floor 237-161. With this bill, Puerto Rico will get a total of $4.7 billion in aid. From this money, $3.3 billion will come from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for community development funds, $1.3 billion would go towards repairing roads, $101 million would be directed to the education system, $210 million would provide for disaster nutrition assistance, $18 million will go towards the improvement of the electrical system, and $6.8 will go towards earthquake analysis. Now, this bill would go onto the Senate for voting.
HUD Releases Puerto Rico Funds: After a months-long delay, the Trump Administration decided to release its hold on billions of dollars of aid to Puerto Rico. This decision was made after Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez and Senator Chuck Schumer led more than forty Members of Congress in calling for a meeting with Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in light of the agency’s ongoing refusal to release previously approved disaster relief funds. In a letter sent to Secretary Carson last month, the Members of Congress demanded the immediate and urgent publication of a Federal Register Notice (FRN) detailing the administrative requirements for the disbursement of the $8.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) appropriated in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123).
SBA Puerto Rico Earthquake Operational Overview:
- 10 disaster recovery centers
- 50 SBA staff on the ground
- 7 approved loans for $88,700