Recurrent Trauma: The effects of Climate Change on Mental Health in Puerto Rico

Rafael Negrón Santos did not lose his home or his job after Hurricane María, but the storm was the end of his relationship with his partner. The struggle to survive in the days and weeks that followed, coupled with the despair caused by life without electricity, the frustration at the number of deaths that the government refused to acknowledge, and the time he devoted to taking care of his mother’s needs, weakened communication with his partner. One day he came home, and she was gone. The number of stress factors he faced took a toll on his mental health. In the months that followed, he lost his appetite, lost nearly 40 pounds, and had panic attacks.

The Use of only 2% of CDBG-DR Available Funds Shows Puerto Rico Government’s Slow Spending

Of the $20.2 billion recovery funds allocation granted after Hurricane María through the Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery program (CDBG-DR), Puerto Rico has been approved to use only 16%, or, $3.2 billion. Of the money available, the government had used a mere 2%, as of June 30, the end of fiscal year 2020. The bureaucratic process and restrictions by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), coupled with the government of Puerto Rico’s ongoing staffing and planning changes, influence the delay in the disbursement of money, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found. Some $67 million had been disbursed, at the end of the fiscal year, on June 30, according to the federal interagency Recovery Support Function Leadership Group (RSFLG), that is, 76% of what was projected by the 2020 Fiscal Plan certified by the Fiscal Control Board. Some of the recovery projects have been shifted to a different agency in charge; others have been canceled.

Fishermen in Puerto Rico Approach Third Year Without Receiving Funds for Losses After Hurricane María

Three years after Hurricane María made landfall, fishermen in Puerto Rico have not seen a penny of aid funding to cover losses caused by the storm, several fisheries have not yet been repaired and others have been unable to resume their normal work due to lack of equipment, boats or ramps. At worst, some have closed down. The bureaucracy in the management of the funds, coupled with neglect in how the procedures were handled by the Department of Agriculture, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), and the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) have been the obstacles to access to money, the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) found. “We would have been better off if we had been swept away [by the hurricane]. [The Department of] Agriculture told us they didn’t know what to do with us.

Housing Options Don’t Get Off the Ground After Hurricane María, Earthquakes

A bathroom and a bedroom is what’s left of Alexandra Camacho Quiñones’ home in the Amalia Marín sector of the Playa de Ponce neighborhood in Ponce. Her house was destroyed three years ago after Hurricane María, and as time passes, the despair of not having a new home for her and her family of three takes a toll. She has been waiting for a year for the Department of Housing’s (DH) Repair, Rebuild and Relocate (R3) program to begin rebuilding her home. “I keep calling every two weeks, with the same anxiety,” she said. She recalls that she has been in contact with the R3 program regularly since last October.