Proyecto Matria, Miraflores

Hurricane Maria damaged or destroyed more than a third of all homes in Puerto Rico. However, almost a year after this devastating storm, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans still haven't receive federal aid to rebuild their homes. According to several news outlets, 61% of the more than 1 million requests for assistance received by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were denied.  Another 333,118 applications were declared ineligible, often due to technicalities such as not being able to contact the person to carry out a house inspection or because the applicant lacked documents proving ownership. Over 43,000 appeals were filed by those whose claims were denied and 79% of these appeals were also denied.

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SER de Puerto Rico

Today is the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastation of Puerto Rico. I wish to take this moment to thank you on behalf of the Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico and the local community based organizations whose invaluable work we were able to support with your generous contribution.

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Attorney Fermín Arraiza of Access to Justice Fund Foundation is one of the lawyers that are helping people like Don Roberto to formalize ownership of their homes. Photos Xavier García.

In the nine months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria impacted Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has denied 80,000 requests for assistance because applicants can't verify homeownership, according to data provided to El Nuevo Dia newspaper by Adi G. Martinez, executive director of the Access to Justice Fund Foundation (FFAJ by its Spanish acronym).

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Even before hurricanes Irma and Maria passed over the island, the independent art and culture scene of Puerto Rico was in a state of chronic crisis. Austerity measures have long limited the state's economic support of the arts. Alternate sources of funds generally establish that projects must have an educational focus or generate economic activity, not those that simply have an aesthetic or artistic purpose. On the other hand, the need to work in advertising and other industries hinders the ability of local artists to focus their energy and resources on their own projects.

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During the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, mental health professionals observed that emotional and social reactions to a catastrophic event manifested fully a year or year and a half later. In Puerto Rico, seven months after hurricanes Irma and Maria, symptoms of stress and anxiety are starting to surface, particularly in children and in certain vulnerable families.

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