WASHINGTON –The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the entire federal family is engaging in a unified effort to restore routine in Puerto Rico, that includes collaboration between government, the private business sector, and non-governmental volunteer organizations that are essential to securing vital economic services in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
The private sector is working to reopen businesses. Commercial financial institutions are starting to recover, with 156 bank branches open across the island. The restoration of banking services allows goods and services to be bought and sold securely. Commercial technology companies are restoring satellite and communication equipment and cell service has returned to an estimated 12 percent of the island, which is 40 percent of the population. Maritime shipping companies are marshalling barges and cargo ships to deliver needed commodities, while multinational courier delivery service companies are flying tons of cargo to Puerto Rico.
As a result of these partnerships, more than 65 percent of grocery and big box stores, and nearly 70 percent of Puerto Rico’s retail gas stations are open.
The United States Postal Service opened 99 of its post offices in Puerto Rico and both mail processing facilities are open. Updated information on all recovery efforts, including details of specific offices and affected ZIP Codes can be found at USPS Service Alerts.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) announced the opening of a Business Recovery Center (BRC) in San Juan on Oct. 3, to help businesses impacted by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. SBA representatives at the BRC provide information about disaster loans, answer questions and assist businesses in completing the SBA application. Small businesses and private nonprofit organizations may be eligible for both Physical and Economic Injury Disaster Loans from the SBA.
Qualified business and private nonprofit organizations of any size may borrow up to $2 million to repair or replace disaster damaged or destroyed real estate, machinery and equipment, inventory, and other business assets. Applicants may be eligible for a loan amount increase up to 20 percent of their physical damages, as verified by the SBA for mitigation purposes. Eligible mitigation improvements may include a safe room or storm shelter to help protect property and occupants from future damage caused by a similar disaster. The Center is located at 273 Ponce de Leon Ave Plaza 273, First Floor, San Juan, and will operate until further notice.
All airports are open or open with restrictions, and commercial air traffic resumed last week. The return of commercial traffic allows goods, beyond relief supplies, to enter markets. Options for purchasing food and water are increasingly available on the islands. This strength and stability the local retail industry is a strong pivot point between response and relief efforts, and recovery.
The National Business Emergency Operations Center (NBEOC) serves as FEMA's virtual clearing house for two-way information sharing between public and private sector stakeholders. During response activities, NBEOC members are tied into FEMA's National Response Coordination Center (NRCC) and Regional Response Coordination Centers to connect members of the private sector with emergency management operations. Representatives from NBEOC are positioned around-the-clock coordinating logistics and helping the private sector to overcome challenges associated with restoring daily operations in Puerto Rico and other areas affected by disaster.
In response to Hurricane Maria, the private sector pledged millions of dollars to assist in recovery efforts, and individuals have volunteered thousands of hours supporting volunteer organizations focused on feeding, sheltering, and providing medical attention to survivors. Although FEMA itself does not have volunteer opportunities, a strong partnership is maintained with the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (NVOAD).
NVOAD focuses on communication, coordination, collaboration, and cooperation between reputable national and local volunteer organizations, ensuring the most efficient and effective use of volunteers. NVOAD maintains around-the-clock presence in FEMA’s NRCC, partnering the strength of volunteer organizations and government responders together to feed, shelter, and care for those affected by disaster.
The impact from Hurricanes Irma and Maria led to catastrophic consequences to Puerto Rico. FEMA, our federal partners, volunteer agencies, and Puerto Rico officials continue to sustain lives and work to restore routine.
FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.
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