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HUD Archives: News Releases

HUD No. 98-471
Further Information:For Release
In the Washington, DC area: 202/708-0685Noon, Saturday
Or contact your local HUD officeSeptember 26, 1998


NEW YORK - Housing and Urban Development Secretary Andrew Cuomo, who was sent to Puerto Rico by President Clinton to speed the delivery of federal disaster relief after Hurricane Georges hit, today debriefed leaders of New York City's Puerto Rican community who were eager to hear news from the island where the hurricane has disrupted communications.

Speaking to a meeting he requested of leaders of New York's Puerto Rican community, heads of charitable groups and clergy, Cuomo said he will report to President Clinton and Vice President Gore this weekend on his trip. He said he will return to Puerto Rico in the coming week to coordinate the prompt and effective delivery of federal assistance.

Cuomo spent Thursday and Friday in Puerto Rico.

"I am here to report on what I have seen in Puerto Rico and on what the federal government is doing to respond to this crisis, because I know the last few days have been especially hard for New Yorkers with family ties linking them to Puerto Rico," Cuomo said. "In the face of these hard times, New York's Puerto Rican community has responded to this crisis with generous donations that will play an important role in Puerto Rico's recovery. You can be proud of all you have done."

New York has the largest Puerto Rican community on the U.S. mainland.

President Clinton announced Thursday that he has declared Puerto Rico a major disaster area, making millions of dollars in federal aid available to help the Commonwealth and its people. The President sent Cuomo to the island as the head of a federal delegation to meet with Governor Pedro Rosello and other top officials to ensure the quick delivery of federal assistance. "The people of Puerto Rico have come together in this time of tragedy, working tirelessly to help each other," Cuomo said. "Puerto Ricans have shown that the worst of times can bring out their best qualities. They are determined to recover from the terrible losses caused by Hurricane Georges, and the Clinton Administration is determined to do all we can to help them."

"President Clinton and Vice President Gore are standing with the people of Puerto Rico at this difficult time," Cuomo said. "Our objective is not just to rebuild what has been destroyed by Hurricane Georges, but to build better, stronger communities in Puerto Rico in the wake of this nightmare."

Cuomo said in Spanish: "Nosotros somos mas que amigos, somos hermanos y hermanas. Somos uno." ("We are more than friends, we are brothers and sisters. We are one.")

Cuomo was joined by Small Business Administration Administrator Aida Alvarez and a representative of Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator James Lee Witt in touring some of the hardest hit areas of Puerto Rico during his visit to the island.

"James Lee Witt and FEMA, Aida Alvarez and the SBA, and 23 other federal agencies have done an outstanding job working together as a team to help the people of Puerto Rico," Cuomo said. "We know recovery will be costly and will take more time that we would like, but we are committed to getting the job done."

Cuomo said federal aid is focused on restoring water and electric power, repairing homes and businesses, reopening roads, and helping farmers to begin producing again.

Cuomo, who toured emergency shelters in Puerto Rico, announced today that HUD is allowing Puerto Rico to use affordable housing funds it received earlier from HUD to pay for the costs of operating emergency shelters for hurricane victims.

The Secretary said HUD's portion of federal assistance to Puerto Rico includes up to $39 million in new emergency grants to the Puerto Rico Public Housing Authority. The funds will be used to repair damage to public housing. There are 57,065 units of public housing in Puerto Rico.

Other HUD assistance to Puerto Rico includes:

  • A 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of homes hit by the disaster that are insured by the Federal Housing Administration, which is part of HUD. As a result, hurricane victims will not lose their homes if they are unable to make their mortgage payments for three months. In addition, HUD will work closely with lenders to restructure mortgages to help disaster victims keep their homes. There are 151,720 homes with FHA mortgages in Puerto Rico.

  • Allowing disaster victims to receive special mortgage insurance that enables them to finance the entire purchase price of a home, with no downpayment.

  • Giving Puerto Rico new flexibility to use $167 million that was earlier awarded to the Commonwealth by HUD for community development programs and $152.5 million that was awarded for public housing modernization. The $167 million can be used for many disaster relief activities and the $152.5 million can be used for disaster repairs on public housing.

  • Saving Puerto Rico up to $6 million by waiving a requirement that the Commonwealth provide matching funds to receive HUD assistance under the HOME program for affordable housing. Puerto Rico can use HOME funds for disaster relief as a result of the disaster declaration.

  • Sending disaster recovery specialists to Puerto Rico to help speed up rebuilding efforts.

As a result of the Presidential Disaster Declaration, other agencies are providing millions of dollars in additional assistance for Puerto Rico that includes:

  • Low-interest loans from federal agencies for many emergency relief and long-term recovery efforts to cover expenses not covered by state or local programs, or private insurance. Businesses are eligible for loans of up to $200,000 from the SBA.

  • Cash grants for up to $13,400 for some individuals from FEMA.

  • $10 million from the Department of Transportation to rebuild roads.

  • Bridge repairs carried out by the Army Corps of Engineers.

  • 10,000 cots and blankets supplied by the General Services Administration.

  • Temporary housing assistance to people whose homes were severely damaged.

  • Assistance from the Department of Veterans' Affairs to provide death benefits, pensions, insurance settlements and adjustments to home mortgages for veterans.

  • Unemployment benefits to people losing their jobs because of the disaster.

  • A telephone hot line for people in need of assistance in Puerto Rico. The line, operated by FEMA, is 1-800-462-9029 and operates from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. every day.

Content Archived: January 20, 2009

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