Puerto Rico to waive rent payments for public housing as 10K remain in shelters
Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images(SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico) — Ten days after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, the U.S. territory’s governor approved a moratorium on rent payments for those living in public housing as residents struggle to recover from the devastating storm.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said at a joint press conference Saturday with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) that the moratorium will stay in effect until January. An estimated 10,000 people remain in shelters, he said.
Rossello also announced the moratorium on Twitter in Spanish.
Anunciamos la moratoria al pago de la renta en los residenciales públicos hasta enero de 2018. pic.twitter.com/L6fXYCnzM1
— Ricardo Rossello (@ricardorossello) September 30, 2017
Maria made landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, killing at least 16 people, knocking out power, decimating infrastructure and drowning the island’s agriculture. Residents at the time were still recovering from the powerful Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier that had unleashed heavy rain and high winds.
Rossello said the highest priority now is to restore the island’s communications and power grid.
As of Saturday morning, just over half of Puerto Rico’s gas stations had reopened, and Rossello said additional fuel will be arriving throughout next week.
Meanwhile, 51 of 69 hospitals are now open, with most running on diesel-powered generators. Only nine hospitals have electricity without a generator, according to Rossello.
Authorities have re-established radio communication in the capital — San Juan — and some surrounding areas. All landlines were working again as of Saturday morning, after dozens of antennas were lifted to get telephone service up again, the governor said.
Hundreds of National Guard members and first responders from law enforcement agencies, including New York City’s police and fire departments, are on the ground in Puerto Rico to help with the recovery efforts.
With thousands of cargo containers filled with necessary supplies that have arrived at a port in San Juan not yet distributed, Rossello told reporters Saturday that his government will purchase some of the crates to make sure they get to those in need across Puerto Rico.
FEMA told ABC News that any aid it has delivered to Puerto Rico has been immediately distributed. The agency, in coordination with its federal partners, has provided millions of meals and liters of water to Puerto Rico this week, officials said.
At Saturday’s joint press conference with Rossello, FEMA Region II Acting Administrator John Rabin said his agency is working closely with law enforcement to ensure supplies are getting delivered. Another 2 million meal kits and 1.5 million liters of water are expected to arrive in Puerto Rico, Rabin said.
President Donald Trump plans to make his first visit to Puerto Rico on Tuesday after critics — both Democrats and Republicans — accused his administration of a lackluster response to the catastrophic damage left by Maria.
Following requests from Puerto Rico’s governor, Trump on Thursday authorized that shipping restrictions, via the Jones Act, be waived immediately for the island over the next 10 days. The move is intended to expedite the delivery of needed relief supplies there.
At a press conference Friday, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz continued her impassioned pleas with the Trump administration for more federal assistance, saying FEMA has “collapsed” in Puerto Rico and residents have not received help quickly enough.
“We are dying, and you are killing us with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy,” Cruz said in a tearful speech. “If we don’t get the food and the water into people’s hands, we are going to see something close to a genocide.”
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