Washington, DC -- Federal disaster aid was made available today for families and businesses in Puerto Rico victimized by floods that struck the island's southwestern region beginning early last week, according to the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
FEMA Director Joe M. Allbaugh said President Bush authorized the assistance after a review of the agency's analysis of the commonwealth's request for federal relief. The President's major disaster declaration covers damage to private property from severe storms, flooding and mudslides that started May 6.
Following the declaration, Allbaugh designated the municipalities of Cabo Rojo, Lajas, Gu?nica, Guayanilla, San Germ?n and Yauco eligible for aid to flood-stricken residents and business owners.
The assistance, to be coordinated by FEMA, can include grants to help pay for temporary housing, emergency home repairs and other serious disaster-related expenses. Low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration also will be available to cover residential and business losses not fully compensated by insurance.
Additionally, Allbaugh said federal funds will be provided for the commonwealth on a cost-shared basis for approved projects that reduce future disaster risks. He indicated that damage surveys are continuing and more municipalities and additional forms of aid for government agencies may be designated later based on the results of the assessments.
Justo Hernandez of FEMA was named by Allbaugh to serve as the federal coordinating officer for the recovery effort. Hernandez said affected residents and business owners in the designated municipalities can begin the disaster application process by calling 1-800-462-9029, or 1-800-462-7585 (TTY) for the hearing and speech impaired. The toll-free telephone numbers will be available starting Thursday, May 17, from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. seven days a week until further notice.