Helping Puerto Rico


On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico. The estimated damage to housing stock is a staggering $35 billion. The damage to major infrastructure and the electrical grid are significant, as much of the island was still without power 9 months into recovery. As a result, Puerto Rico’s economy and population are in decline. Abandoned properties throughout the island’s communities will eventually degrade to urban blight and creating a host of other issues. Many citizens are living in moldy or gutted homes they are unable to repair. Few have any idea what comes next. Human beings are resilient, but they need real, clear, reliable information.  This lack of predictability will drive many survivors past their breaking point. Without it, many will just give up.




SBP established its long-term operating site in Puerto Rico in August of 2018 with support from Mylan and vehicles from Toyota, to move towards its goal of rebuilding and/or repairing 100 homes in the first year. We have focused our efforts in several municipalities, including Carolina, Canovanas, Loiza, San Juan and Yabucoa, successfully completing 23 projects already and with the commitment to continue serving communities as long as there is a need.


An effective recovery only happens when shared learning happens. By training other organizations on SBP’s best practices and sharing AmeriCorps members, SBP will help to build the capacity of other rebuilding organizations on the island. We have identified several partner organizations that we will support who are doing great work in areas like Yabucoa and Loíza.


Sixty percent of residents in Puerto Rico were rejected by FEMA. There is a significant need for assistance with appeals. Lack of FEMA funds are a major inhibitor of scaled construction activity. SBP will support residents by helping clients navigate current recovery program options and provide preparedness training directly to individuals and groups so they are better able to face a natural disaster in the future.


Puerto Rico has been awarded $18.5 billion, the largest disaster aid package from HUD in U.S. history to address the damage caused by Hurricane Maria. Damage to homes, infrastructure and the economy is extensive. As we have done in several counties and cities in previous disasters, SBP will partner with the government to design programs that elevate outcome and pace to the same level of importance as compliance, and that introduces more resilient approaches to rebuilding.


SBP will continue to advocate for a smarter, more efficient system of disaster recovery by highlighting ways that the recovery in Puerto Rico (and other communities where we work) could be sped up through greater collaboration across agencies to be more accurate and timely.


One example: We’d like FEMA to develop clearer instructions for disaster impacted applicants. A step-by-step, document-by-document approach would be helpful. SBP can work to provide this service ourselves and with partners, but a FEMA partnership would help with the accuracy of messaging and will help increase the success rate of these activities.