Following the devastating impact of Hurricane Fiona that has displaced millions of families across Puerto Rico, today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Financial Services Committee, and Congresswoman Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business, sent a letter to President Biden calling on the administration to remain steadfast in its commitment to equitable disaster recovery by moving quickly to approve every municipality in Puerto Rico for Individual Assistance (IA) through FEMA, which allows impacted families to apply for financial and direct assistance to cover housing and other necessary expenses.
“While Individual Assistance (IA) has been approved for many municipalities on the Island, we write to voice our support for the immediate approval of IA for the remaining municipalities in accordance with Governor Pierluisi’s initial request that IA be authorized for the entire Island,” wrote the lawmakers. “As of today, hard hit municipalities, such as Loíza, Cabo Rojo, Guánica, and Lajas—home to some of the lowest income households on the Island—have not yet been approved for IA.”
See the full text of the letter here, which is also provided below.
The Honorable Joseph Biden
President of the United States of America
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear President Biden:
We appreciate your rapid response to Hurricane Fiona, which has displaced families and damaged critical infrastructure in Puerto Rico. Your disaster declaration will make federal assistance available to the Island to help families and local governments recover. While Individual Assistance (IA) has been approved for many municipalities on the Island, we write to voice our support for the immediate approval of IA for the remaining municipalities in accordance with Governor Pierluisi’s initial request that IA be authorized for the entire Island.
As of today, hard hit municipalities, such as Loíza, Cabo Rojo, Guánica, and Lajas—home to some of the lowest income households on the Island—have not yet been approved for IA. This assistance, among other things, allows households to apply for financial and direct assistance to cover housing and any other necessary expense that is underinsured or uninsured.
Historically, federal and local governments have struggled to ensure a just and equitable recovery following major disasters. However, given your administration’s commitment to advancing equity and racial justice, it is our hope that we can work together to avoid repeating similar mistakes of the past. While we understand that it is not uncommon for new assistance designations to be made on a rolling basis, we also know that the entire Island of Puerto Rico has been affected by this disaster. We look forward to working together to equitably address the recovery needs of communities across the Island.
Representative Maxine Waters
Committee on Financial Services
U.S. House of Representatives
Representative Nydia M. Velázquez
Committee on Small Business
U.S. House of Representatives
cc: The Honorable Patrick McHenry, Ranking Member, Committee on Financial Services
The Honorable Blaine Luetkemeyer, Ranking Member, Committee on Small Business
The Honorable Deanne Criswell, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency
 White House, President Joseph R. Biden, Jr. Approves Puerto Rico Disaster Declaration (Sep. 21, 2022).
 FEMA, Daily Operations Briefing (Sep. 21, 2022).
 Congressional Research Service, A Brief Overview of FEMA’s Individual Assistance Program (Feb. 16, 2022).
 Zach Despart, Texas said inland counties had lower disaster risk, yet awarded them huge share of $1B in Harvey aid (June 18, 2021); NBC News, New probe confirms Trump officials blocked Puerto Rico from receiving hurricane aid (Apr. 22, 2021); NAACP-LDF, Civil Rights Organizations Settle Hurricane Katrina Housing Discrimination Case Against HUD And Louisiana (Jul. 6, 2011).
 White House, Executive Order On Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government (Jan. 20, 2021).
 44 CFR § 206.40
 The Guardian, Flooding and landslides in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Fiona knocks out power to island (Sep. 19, 2022).
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