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Video Q&A: Puerto Rico and Hurricane Maria, Four Years Later

In 2017, Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and their neighbors, leaving thousands dead, hundreds of thousands of homes damaged, and billions in economic losses. Efforts to recover and bolster Puerto Rico’s resilience to future storms are still underway, having been impeded by the slow disbursement of aid to the island.

BPC asked housing and disaster relief experts to share their thoughts on the challenges Puerto Rico faced in getting communities in crisis needed assistance, the status of recovery efforts, and future plans to build a more resilient Puerto Rico:

  • Fernando Gil-Enseñat, Esq. – Former Puerto Rico Secretary of Housing
  • Stan Gimont – Senior Advisor for Community Recovery, Hagerty Consulting; Former HUD Deputy Assistant Secretary
  • Ariadna Godreau-Aubert – Founder and Director, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico
  • Bryan Koon – Vice President of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, IEM; Former Florida Director of Emergency Management
  • Blanca Velez Beauchamp – Executive Director, Puerto Rico Neighborhood Housing Services Corp.

See their responses below:

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Hurricane Maria’s impacts ranged widely and reached broadly, interrupting basic services such as electricity and water, damaging homes, and limiting individuals’ employment opportunities. Now four years since Maria’s landfall, can you reflect on the progress made in building back?

Congress appropriated funding specifically for Puerto Rico to repair and upgrade its electric grid—which failed across the island and faced significant restoration challenges. What is the status of these and other critical infrastructure repairs?

How confident are you that critical infrastructure systems and homes on the island can withstand future hurricanes? What other changes have been made to better plan and prepare for future storms?

From federal regulations to insufficient local capacity, there has been a ton of finger pointing about the root causes of assistance delays following Hurricane Maria. What do you believe were the key chokepoints in the delivery of disaster aid, and have they been sufficiently addressed?

In particular, more than $20 billion of HUD disaster funding (CDBG-DR and CDBG-MIT) was allocated to Puerto Rico—critical disaster and recovery funds that faced repeated delay and access challenges. What improvements could Congress and the administration make to the CDBG-DR program to avoid similar challenges in the future?

What have been Maria’s most lasting impacts and legacy?

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