July 9, 2018

Building Blocks Podcast: A Long-Term Commitment to Recovery

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Laurie Schoeman, Erika Ruiz, and Laurel Blatchford discuss Puerto Rico Recovery on the Building Blocks Podcast.

June 1st marked the beginning of the 2018 hurricane season, and yet, for many, the 2017 hurricane season still feels quite recent. As we creep towards the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Irma and Maria’s devastation, I would like to re-visit the road to recovery for the island of Puerto Rico. On episode 6 of Building Blocks, Enterprise experts Erika Ruiz and Laurie Schoeman give us a glimpse at efforts to build back Puerto Rico and negotiate the delicate process of reconstruction with a new emphasis on resilience. 

From an outsider’s perspective, many of the tourist destinations on the island are back to business as usual, with a majority of hotels and public attractions operating regularly since December 2017. However, recovery across the island varies. 

We continued to see island-wide power outages through April, and a considerable number of Puerto Ricans remain without power to this day. Over 200 schools have been closed, local businesses shuttered, and medical care is still considered unreliable. The delay and interruption of health services alone resulted in 4,645 deaths on the island post-Hurricane Maria, a total painfully higher than the government’s initial reporting of 64. This kind of miss-match in reported statistics has brought major criticisms from media outlets and residents, who have been offered little transparency and few opportunities for community participation in the recovery planning process.  

Within the first 6 months, more than 135,000 Puerto Ricans were reported to have left the island, and although individuals have begun to return with plans to rebuild, the mass-exodus, battered infrastructure, and crippled economy have continued to slow recovery.  The true impact of Hurricane Maria is still being determined, and that lack of complete understanding will have serious ramifications as experts attempt to implement strategies for recovery. 

In May 2018, the Governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, announced his plans for the first installment of the nearly $20 billion approved by the Department of Housing and Urban Development to support Puerto Rico recovery - the largest disaster recovery grant ever awarded in the agency’s history. If HUD approves the governor’s $1.5 million request, funds are expected to start flowing in August. 

Tune in here to learn more from Erika Ruiz, Director of Enterprise Advisors, and Laurie Schoeman, Senior Program Director of Resilience Initiatives, about the role Enterprise is taking to support and guide the government response to recovery and rebuilding on Puerto Rico.

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