Biden Takes Another Emergency Step for Puerto Rico

Major disaster declaration unlocks federal funding to be administered through FEMA
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 22, 2022 1:04 PM CDT
Biden Takes Another Emergency Step for Puerto Rico
This satellite image provided by NOAA shows Hurricane Fiona in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda, moving north on Thursday, Sept. 22, 2022.   (NOAA via AP)

(Newser) – Days after approving an emergency declaration as Hurricane Fiona whomped Puerto Rico, President Biden has now issued a major disaster declaration to help the island recover. Gov. Pedro Pierluisi thanked the president and the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the expedited declaration Wednesday, saying it ensures Puero Rico "will have access to additional help from FEMA to recover from the damage caused," per Politico. The declaration unlocks more federal assistance to help with "grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-interest loans to cover uninsured property losses and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover," FEMA says.

Before and after photos from Fox show a formerly green landscape transformed into a mess of muddy, brown water. Almost two-thirds of residents are without drinking water, according to a group of community organizations dubbed the Fiona Community Response Fund. LUMA Energy, which manages the island's power grid, said on Wednesday that power had been restored to just 376,000 of 1.5 million customers. The economic impact, including job and tourism losses, is estimated at $10 billion, or 10% of Puerto Rico's GDP, according to AccuWeather, per Politico. FEMA Assistant Administrator for Recovery Keith Turi has warned of "continuing hazards," including mud and rockslides, plus more rain.

The hurricane has been linked to at least eight deaths across the Caribbean, per Reuters. Four deaths have been reported in Puerto Rico, where the hurricane made landfall as a Category 1 storm, dropping up to 30 inches of rain in spots. It reached Category 4 on Wednesday after battering the Dominican Republic. It's expected to pass just west of Bermuda, where a hurricane warning has been issued, late Thursday, per the Guardian. It is then expected to make landfall in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island as a Category 1 or Category 2 storm on Friday, per the CBC. (Read more Puerto Rico stories.)

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