President Biden Approves Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico After Hurricane Fiona

by Samantha Whidden

Days after Hurricane Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico, President Joe Biden issued a disaster declaration for the Commonwealth on Wednesday (September 21st).

In a statement on the White House website, the Biden administration announced the declaration for Puerto Rico. He also ordered federal aid to supplement the commonwealth and local recovery efforts in the areas impacted by Hurricane Fiona. The declaration makes federal funding available for affected individuals in multiple municipalities. This includes Adjuntas, Aguas Buenas, Aibonito, Bayamón, Canóvanas, Dorado, Jayuya, and Río Grande. 

The statement reveals, “Assistance can include grants for temporary housing and home repairs, low-cost loans to cover uninsured property losses, and other programs to help individuals and business owners recover from the effects of the disaster.”

Along with the assistance, federal funding is also available to Puerto Rico and eligible local governments. Certain private nonprofit organizations will also have access on a cost-sharing basis. This will be for debris removal and emergency protective measures in all 78 municipalities in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Federal funding is available on a cost-sharing basis for hazard mitigation measures for the entire Commonwealth.

Meanwhile, the Biden Administration says damage assessments are continuing in other areas. Additional municipalities may be designated for assistance after the assessments are fully completed.

President Biden Speaks to Puerto Rico’s Governor During Aftermath of Hurricane Fiona

Meanwhile, President Biden spoke to the Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi about the federal government’s support following Hurricane Fiona. 

ABC News reports that President Biden discussed his administration’s support with the Puerto Rico Governor. The storm reportedly left at least one person dead in the U.S. territory and one person in the French territory of Guadeloupe. Hurricane Fiona also left Puerto Rico without power. It was noted it will take several days to resolve the power outage on the island. 

Along with discussing the federal support, President Biden told the governor that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator, Deanne Criswell, was going to San Juan. She met with local and state officials as well as affected citizens to assess urgent needs. The President stated that the surge of federal support to the island is already working to assist with response and recovery. 

ABC News further reports that Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit the island almost exactly five years ago. President Biden further stated he will ensure that federal officials remain on the job to get it done. “Governor Pierluisi expressed his appreciation for the partnership and support that he is receiving already from the Biden Administration,” The White House shared

The White House added that in the coming days, the number of support personnel will increase substantially. This is notably after assessments are complete.