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A Huge Part of Crucial Aid for Puerto Rico is Still In Limbo

Nearly 30,000 homes in Puerto Rico still have temporary roofs, almost two years after Hurricane Maria.

by Roberto Ferdman
Jun 6 2019, 8:31pm

TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico — Maria Cruz-Vega can sometimes hear the foundation creaking when she’s in bed at night. There are holes in her floor — and her walls — and she prays the blue-tarp roof that covers her home won't collapse on her and her family. Nearly 30,000 households in Puerto Rico are still living like this, literally without a real roof over their heads, almost two years after Hurricane Maria pummeled the island.

So far, Cruz-Vega has only received about $3,000 from FEMA. She may be able to get more aid soon.

After months of negotiations, Congress finally passed a $19.1 billion disaster aid bill on Monday. The bill, which President Trump has said he will sign, will provide billions in aid to flood-ravaged Texas, wildfire areas in California, and hard-hit Puerto Rico. But the $1.5 billion that the bill allots to the island's recovery is just a fraction of the money the government has already promised — but failed to deliver.

"I think that the fact that we are not a state has essentially given the platform for the Administration to give a different and unfair treatment to Puerto Rico," Omar Marrero, the head of recovery in Puerto Rico, told VICE News.

Without proper funds, Puerto Rico has been slapping Band-aids on things, building only temporary infrastructure — and leaving tens of thousands living in shaky, damaged homes.

"Across all Puerto Rico, the only fixes, the only work that is being done, is emergency work," said Marrero.

VICE News traveled to Puerto Rico to see what recovery looks like almost two years after Hurricane Maria, just as a new hurricane season is getting started.

This segment originally aired June 5, 2019, on VICE News Tonight on HBO.