Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

HUD Announces Billions In Additional Grants To Puerto Rico


The Department of Housing and Urban Development says it's going to give Puerto Rico the biggest disaster recovery grant in the agent's history - $18.5 billion. And that means HUD has now approved more than $20 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. NPR's Adrian Florido is reporting from San Juan.

ADRIAN FLORIDO, BYLINE: Just how much is $20 billion? Well, it's more than twice as much as Puerto Rico's entire general budget. That may explain why Governor Ricardo Rossello was beaming when he and HUD's deputy secretary made the announcement in a heavily damaged community east of San Juan.


RICARDO ROSSELLO: Now, Madam Subsecretary, you're giving us a chance to not only reconstruct Puerto Rico but to transform it and rebuilding stronger than it has ever been before.

FLORIDO: The money is mostly coming in the form of community development block grants, which let local governments decide how to spend them. While grants from the Federal Emergency Management Agency can be used to fix storm damage, HUD's grants can be used for improvements.



FLORIDO: "We could build new housing," said Jenniffer Gonzalez, the island's nonvoting member of Congress. "We could repair roads, build infrastructure, install generators, give people title to their properties." That last one is a big one. More than half of Puerto Ricans don't have title to their properties. That's why FEMA has denied so many of them grants for home repair, which is why there are still so many people living in damaged homes on the island. Like 64-year-old Angel Manuel Martinez, who lost the metal paneling on his roof in the city of Dorado and has no money to fix it.

ANGEL MANUEL MARTINEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "The water started leaking in," he said, "and it still does." He was denied a FEMA grant in part because he couldn't prove he owned the house even though he was born there.

MARTINEZ: (Speaking Spanish).

FLORIDO: "Besides that tarp, the only help I've gotten is from churches and the city," he said. If the government does give people like Angel Martinez title to their properties, it might help them get help after the next storm. Adrian Florido, NPR News, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

(SOUNDBITE OF JESSE COOK'S "RUMBA D'EL JEFE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Adrian Florido
Adrian Florido is a national correspondent for NPR covering race and identity in America.