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World & Nation

President Trump signs disaster declaration for quake-hit Puerto Rico

The Puerto Rican flag flies in front of the commonwealth's Capitol in San Juan.
(Ricardo Arduengo / Associated Press)

President Trump signed a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on Thursday, authorizing the Federal Emergency Management Agency to give aid to the island still reeling from earthquakes that shut off power, collapsed buildings and wrecked infrastructure.

At least one person died and hundreds of thousands were left without power after an earthquake swarm struck the island at the end of December and into early January. The earthquakes are likely to dissuade tourism and could cost the island’s economy up to $3.1 billion, CNN reported. The disaster intensified the already damaged infrastructure.

The declaration signed by Trump authorizes federal aid to remove debris and provides money for public health and safety, according to Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the island’s representative to the U.S. Congress. It also authorizes building to mitigate future infrastructure damage and covers six municipalities including Ponce, Guánica and Yauco.

The declaration authorizes grants for temporary housing relocation and home repairs. Impacted business owners can apply for loans up to $2 million, according to FEMA. Farmers and ranchers can apply for loans up to $500,000.

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Trump earlier this month declared a state of emergency that authorized FEMA to coordinate disaster relief efforts. This declaration formally releases federal money to the island.

The request for the declaration was made by Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced.

“We thank the [president] for his commitment helping relieve the suffering of our fellow citizens,” she tweeted.

The island has struggled since Hurricane Maria in 2017, which resulted in deaths and mass power outages. Natural disasters, alongside political upheaval, last year triggered mass protests that resulted in the resignation of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló in July.

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FEMA has given $6.054 billion in public assistance grants to those impacted by Hurricane Maria.


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