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Op-Ed: FEMA still here to help Puerto Rico’s hurricane survivors

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is still in Puerto Rico to help hurricane survivors even though the deadline for registering for disaster assistance has passed.

It will take many years for Puerto Rico to fully recover, a process that will remain in motion on many fronts. FEMA along with its federal and government of Puerto Rico partners will continue to respond to the needs of survivors and help rebuild a stronger and more resilient Puerto Rico.

As of June 18, more than 3,000 FEMA and other federal agency staff remain in Puerto Rico, including 1,351 locally hired staff. Personnel are staffing recovery centers across the island as well as the Joint Recovery Office in Guaynabo and its supporting facilities and branch offices in Aguadilla, Caguas, Manatí and Ponce.

FEMA partnered with the government of Puerto Rico to operate disaster recovery centers across the island, and 64 centers remain open to help survivors. Some 727,706 Puerto Rico residents have visited the centers so far.

More than $1.3 billion in FEMA recovery grants were approved for individuals and families. FEMA grants do not have to be repaid. FEMA assistance is nontaxable and will not affect survivors’ eligibility for Social Security, Medicaid or other federal benefits.

More than $1.6 billion in U.S. Small Business Administration low-interest, disaster recovery loans were approved for homeowners, renters, business owners and qualified non-profits.

If you registered for assistance, FEMA encourages you to keep in touch by phone or in person at a disaster recovery center to track your claim and update your contact information: postal address, email address and telephone numbers. Report any insurance settlements as well as any additional damage discovered since your home inspection. If home insurance pays for any damage that was included in your FEMA grant, FEMA will require that amount be repaid.

There are various ways to reach FEMA:

  • Online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • Call the FEMA helpline at 800-621-FEMA (3362); for Spanish press 2. Those who are deaf, hard of hearing or have a speech disability and use a TTY may call 800-462-7585. Toll-free numbers are open daily from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m.
  • Visit a disaster recovery center; find the closest one at gov/DRClocator.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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