If you visited Puerto Rico today, you would be shocked by what you see. Many buildings have tarps covering their roofs and makeshift repairs that are barely holding it all together. Even though it’s been nearly two years since Hurricane Maria struck the island nation, Puerto Rico is still fighting to recover. Since there has been a lot of misinformation about funding for Hurricane Maria victims, the U.S. House Homeland Security Committee held a hearing to address how much aid has been actually made it into the hands of hurricane victims.
President Donald Trump has made statements indicating the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has spent approximately $91 billion on Hurricane Maria recovery; however, the reality is much different. According to Peter Gaynor, the acting FEMA Administrator, the agency has only spent $42 billion, which includes money that was requested but has not yet been actually paid. Estimates from The Washington Post indicate that by March 2019, only $11 billion in aid had actually been paid to the government of Puerto Rico.
All of this led to House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) to exclaim, “The federal response to Hurricane Maria nearly two years ago was an abject failure.” Sadly, it isn’t just slow government response impeding the island’s recovery. In addition to a lack of needed aid, many property owners in Puerto Rico are waiting for insurance payouts. Insurance companies have been reluctant to pay out on claims because of the huge losses for their companies. Unfortunately, this means property owners in Puerto Rico are unable to make needed repairs.
Insurance companies have no right to slow down, underpay, or completely deny hurricane damage claims just because they don’t wish to pay out. Policyholders that regularly pay their premiums are entitled to complete and full protection under their policies. When insurance companies cause unnecessary delays, only accept some damage, or outright claim Hurricane Maria damage isn’t covered under an insurance policy, policyholders can hold them accountable by filling a lawsuit.