President Biden remains focused on response and recovery efforts in the wake of Hurricane Fiona. The President has made clear that Puerto Rico officials, first responders, and all those impacted by the storm have the full support of the Federal Government. He approved an Emergency Declaration prior to landfall and immediately approved the Governor of Puerto Rico’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual and Public Assistance. He has been in regular contact with Puerto Rico Governor Pierluisi and asked FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell to travel to the island as soon as the hurricane made landfall.
At a briefing in New York last week with the FEMA Administrator, the Governor of Puerto Rico, New York Governor Kathy Hochul, New York Mayor Eric Adams, and other Federal and local officials, President Biden announced additional financial support for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico and pledged to support Puerto Rico in its recovery efforts in the weeks to come.
Consistent with the President’s direction for a robust and well-coordinated Federal response, the Administration has taken swift action to support Hurricane Fiona response and recovery efforts.
Approved an Emergency Declaration in Before Landfall and a Major Disaster Declaration for Individual and Public Assistance:
- On September 18, before Hurricane Fiona made landfall, the President approved an Emergency Declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. The declaration authorized FEMA to provide assistance for emergency measures to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety and fund emergency protective measures.
- On September 21, President Biden approved a Major Disaster Declaration for the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, authorizing Individual and Public Assistance for impacted municipalities and hazard mitigation.
- On September 22, the President authorized 100% Federal Cost Share for the Government of Puerto Rico to support Public Assistance for 30 days. This will provide 100% Federal funding for Debris Removal and Emergency Protective Measures and help the Commonwealth begin their recovery without adding additional financial burden to communities that are working to recover. He also increased Critical Needs Assistance from $500 to $700 to support individuals and families with immediate or critical needs as a result of being displaced from their primary dwelling. These could include life-saving and life-sustaining items, such as water, food, medical support, infant formula, personal hygiene items, and fuel for transportation.
- As of September 27, Individual Assistance has been approved for all municipalities in Puerto Rico.
Supporting Emergency Response:
- As of September 28, there are over 1,000 Federal response workers on the ground in Puerto Rico supporting operations, planning, power restoration, debris removal, and urban search and rescue. This includes over 100 urban search and rescue personnel deployed to Puerto Rico in support of the Puerto Rico National Guard and local responders.
- More than 450 members of the Puerto Rico National Guard are conducting search and rescue operations, commodity distribution, security operations, and other response and recovery activities.
- Today, the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration announced the immediate availability of $8 million in Emergency Relief funds for use by the Puerto Rico Highways and Transportation Authority. The funds will offset costs of repair work needed as a result of flooding and landslide damage to highways and bridges.
- The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services declared a Public Health Emergency for Puerto Rico due to the flooding impact of Hurricane Fiona. The declaration gives the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services beneficiaries and their health care providers and suppliers greater flexibility in meeting emergency health needs.
- The U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service approved a waiver for the Puerto Rico Department of the Family to allow hot foods to be purchased with Nutrition Assistance Program benefits through October 9.
- FEMA prepositioned supplies on the island including four strategically located warehouses throughout the island, more than 7 million liters of water, more than 4 million ready-to-eat meals, more than 215 generators, more than 100,000 tarps, more than 28,000 plastic covers and more than 10,300 cots and other emergency supplies.
- The U.S. Coast Guard conducted port assessments and verified proper Aids to Navigation to ensure the safe and timely resumption of commerce.
Expediting Power Restoration to Impacted Communities:
- Today, the Department of Homeland Security approved a temporary and targeted Jones Act waiver allowing 300,000 gallons of much-needed diesel fuel to be discharged to Puerto Rico. The Administration continues to urge all petroleum refiners to help ensure Puerto Rico has adequate fuels supplies, and to use Jones Act compliant vessels whenever possible.
- Subject matter experts and personnel from FEMA, the Department of Energy and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers are working intensively with Puerto Rico officials on urgent power restoration efforts.
- In the aftermath of the Hurricane, Federal responders have worked to identify and assess requirements for generators to provide temporary back up power to critical facilities and install generators where they are needed. There are now more than 200 generators on the island available to support key facilities across the island.
Investing in Long-term Climate Resilience:
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provides an opportunity to make a historic investment in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure to bolster resilience against future climate change and extreme weather events. To date, more than $184 million has been allocated to Puerto Rico for infrastructure resilience in 2022, including $163 million in funding for the Caño Martín Peña Channel Restoration from the US Army Corps of Engineers.
- The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law also makes significant investments to increase the resilience of Puerto Rico’s grid. The Department of Energy’s Preventing Outages and Enhancing the Resilience of the Electric Grid formula grant program allocates $3.7 million to Puerto Rico in 2022 to improve the resilience of the electric grid against disruptive events. The Department’s State Energy Program also allocates $4.7 million to Puerto Rico to enhance energy security, advance state-led clean energy initiatives, and increase energy affordability.
- An additional $38 million was allocated to Puerto Rico in 2022 for weatherization under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The Weatherization Assistance Program helps low-income families reduce household energy expenditures. Examples of weatherization include more efficient cooling systems, light fixtures, and household appliances, installation of solar water heaters, and measures to reduce hot water use.