An Inconvenient Truth Regarding Puerto Rico
For 12 hours on September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and paralyzed its economy. For months, the island was submerged in darkness, without electricity, water, and in silence without communications. H. Calero Consulting Group, Inc. estimated $138 billion in damages. On September 18, 2022, Puerto Rico again went dark and without water as Hurricane Fiona passed through the southwest of the island and inflicted significant flood damage to houses and infrastructure. Five years have elapsed since Hurricane Maria, and while massive federal recovery funds have been assigned by the U.S. Congress, recovery efforts have been slow and insufficient. Why?
As of Q3 2022, the U.S. Congress had assigned $79.9 billion in recovery funds to Puerto Rico. Of those, $67.6 billion had been obligated, and only $24.4 billion, or 36 percent, had been disbursed. Why? After five years, and despite $12.2 billion in obligated federal funds, Puerto Rico’s electrical grid has not yet been reconstructed. Why? Local counties or municipalities were assigned $18.3 billion, of which only 4 percent, or $823.7 million, had been disbursed. Why?
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