Federal assistance fuels island’s recovery from Tropical Storm Isaias

By John McPhaul

More than $1.8 million in federal disaster assistance is helping fuel the recovery of Puerto Rico residents and businesses that suffered damage in Tropical Storm Isaias from July 29 to July 31.

As of Nov. 8, the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) Individuals and Households program had approved $513,834 in housing assistance to repair disaster-damaged homes and pay for temporary housing. Another $512,767 was approved under FEMA’s Other Needs Assistance program, which provides funding for disaster-related expenses and serious needs including medical, dental, transportation, moving and storage expenses.

Additionally, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved more than $819,500 in low-interest disaster loans to 34 homeowners, renters and businesses.

After Puerto Rico received a major disaster declaration for Isaias on Sept. 9, a total of 847 eligible individuals and households in the designated municipalities of Aguada, Hormigueros, Mayagüez and Rincón applied for FEMA disaster assistance.

Disaster Legal Services, a partnership between Puerto Rico Legal Services, the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, and FEMA, received $5,000 in FEMA funding for administrative support for volunteer attorneys who assist survivors.

The program provides free legal help with various disaster-related problems. Among them: filing FEMA appeal forms, completing insurance claims for doctor and hospital bills, and resolving disputes with home repair contracts and contractors.

As the recovery operation moved forward, FEMA opened four disaster recovery centers in the designated municipalities under COVID-19 safety measures.

The Mayagüez center remains open until Nov. 13 for residents to speak to specialists in person and update their applications. The center will suspend operations today for Veterans Day. As of Nov. 8, there had been 1,300 visits to the recovery centers.

The deadline to apply for FEMA assistance and SBA physical damage loan applications was Nov. 9. The deadline for businesses to submit economic injury disaster loan applications to SBA is June 9, 2021.

FEMA specialists remain on the island to support recovery efforts and are still a phone call away. The FEMA Helpline at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or (TTY) 800-462-7585 remains open for questions or updates to an application. Press 2 for a Spanish-speaking operator. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily.

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