Puerto Rico seeks $94B for Maria disaster relief

By Daniel Uria  |  Nov. 13, 2017 at 6:37 PM
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Nov. 13 (UPI) -- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello unveiled a $94 billion disaster relief request to Congress on Monday to help the U.S. territory recover from Hurricane Maria.

Island officials said the $94.4 billion request came after independent damage assessments to determine the funds necessary to restore and rebuild housing on the island as well as its infrastructure.

"We aren't just asking for money. We are asking for what is needed. This disaster has been unprecedented," Puerto Rico's representative in Congress, Jenniffer Gonzalez, said.

A total of $31 billion from the request is expected to go toward housing assistance, 17.7 billion will be used to rebuild the island's power grid and $14.9 billion will be allocated to healthcare.

"This is a critical step forward in the rebuilding of Puerto Rico where we're not only looking to rebuild as was before but we want to make it much stronger and much more resilient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean," Rossello said.

Nearly eight weeks after the hurricane struck the island about 48 percent of Puerto Ricans have access to power, 73.5 percent of telecommunications and 2,070 people remain in 52 shelters, ABC News reported.

Gonzalez and Rep. Jose Serrano, D-N.Y., introduced a bill that would allow relief funds provided by the Stafford Act, which details federal natural disaster assistance for state and local jurisdictions, to be used to construct a new power grid.

"This legislation is a necessary modernizing tool that will allow states and localities to update critical energy systems and make them more resilient and efficient by providing them with necessary financial and technical assistance for such an endeavor, Serrano said. "Puerto Rico has been criticized for having an outdated electrical grid, and this is our opportunity to help them establish a better, more efficient replacement that would help the island face future hurricane seasons as well as save taxpayers money."

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