FEMA Approves Assistance for Entire Island of Puerto Rico Following Pressure from Impacted Communities and Advocates

In the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico, FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell and the White House have sought to emphasize to wary residents of Puerto Rico that a whole-of-government response will be undertaken to address the disaster. FEMA pre-positioned several hundred employees on the island prior to Fiona’s landfall, and the agency has sought to be much more expedient in addressing the island’s needs as compared to its response and recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria in 2017 – efforts that are still ongoing. However, despite recent changes emphasizing the importance of equity within the agency, as well as changes to assistance application requirements around title documentation that have led to 10,000 additional individuals becoming eligible for assistance during last year’s hurricane season, advocates have been calling for more substantial reforms in order to avoid the sort of slow response that followed Hurricane Maria.

Despite this, FEMA’s initial recommendation for approval of assistance to individuals and households was only for a portion of island. The municipalities left out were home to substantial communities of afro-Puerto Ricans, immigrants, and households with low incomes that were hit hard by Hurricane Fiona. FEMA’s decision led to immediate pressure from advocacy groups, including NLIHC and Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico, which together sent a joint letter to FEMA demanding an expansion of the assistance area. As a result, FEMA announced on September 27 that it had approved assistance for the entire island.

As disaster survivors begin to apply for assistance, NLIHC and its partners on the island will continue to monitor and assess the process to ensure that all disaster survivors receive the assistance they need to fully recover.

Read the sign-on letter with demands to remove barriers for Hurricane Fiona recovery at: https://bit.ly/3LCFpOB

Read FEMA’s updated Hurricane Fiona page at: https://bit.ly/3y5eUMi