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Temporary rental assistance available to Puerto Rico earthquake survivors

Residents whose homes were made uninhabitable by the Dec. 28 to Feb. 4 earthquakes may be eligible for temporary rental assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the agency announced.

Rental assistance does not have to be repaid and may be used to lease a house, apartment or manufactured home or any other temporary housing that meet the need, the agency added.

To be considered for temporary rental assistance, homeowners and renters must have been displaced from a primary residence that was damaged in the earthquakes. Eligibility is based on a FEMA assessment of the primary residence. It is not limited to type of structures.

The damaged home also must be in one of the following 33 municipalities approved for FEMA’s Individual Assistance program: Adjuntas, Aguada, Añasco, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Cabo Rojo, Ciales, Coamo, Corozal, Guánica, Guayanilla, Hormigueros, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Lajas, Lares, Las Marías, Maricao, Mayagüez, Moca, Morovis, Naranjito, Orocovis, Peñuelas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San Germán, San Sebastián, Santa Isabel, Utuado, Villalba and Yauco.

People whose primary residences were uninsured or those who have insufficient coverage to meet their temporary housing needs may be considered for rental assistance. They must be willing to relocate while repairs are being made to the home.

The initial rental assistance award is based on the fair market rent established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for the municipality where the disaster-damaged residence is located, FEMA said. The award is also based on the number of occupied bedrooms the household requires.

Rental assistance is intended to cover the monthly rent and cost of essential utilities (gas, electric, water, trash and sewer). It does not include telephone, cable, TV or internet service. The award can also be used to pay a security deposit not more than the cost of one month’s rent.

The first step to seeking rental assistance is applying for FEMA assistance. There are several ways to apply:

  • Online at DisasterAssistance.gov.
  • By phone at 800-621-3362 (FEMA) or (TTY) 800-462-7585. Press 2 for a Spanish-speaking operator. Lines are open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.

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

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