Puerto Rico is set to receive at least $40 million in federal funds to rebuild critical road infrastructure destroyed by Hurricane Maria. According to a press statement from Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, the Federal Highway Administration will disburse the emergency relief funds to Puerto Rico immediately in order to rebuild essential roads and bridges. After officials made the request on Thursday, the funds were immediately approved.

In the aftermath of the storm, roads throughout the island commonwealth were awash with torrential rain brought debris and destruction. Roads are blocked and preventing aid from reaching isolated area. The electrical grid is also largely inoperative.

“Puerto Rico was hit hard by Hurricane Maria, so I have directed the Department to release $40 million in emergency funding to begin restoring and repairing the roads and bridges across the island,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said in a press statement. “It is critical to get the island’s infrastructure in working condition … so relief supplies … can be delivered to the people of Puerto Rico.”

An essential part of rebuilding Puerto Rico was announced on Thursday. The White House revealed that President Donald Trump has temporarily waived the century-old Jones Act, which requires that shipments between US ports must go on American-made ships that are crewed by Americans. Some Republicans are hoping to see the Jones Act ultimately repealed. The governor of Puerto Rico has claimed that the the Jones Act hinders aid from reaching the island. Alaska and Hawaii are also calling for a repeal of the Jones Act. 

According to Moody’s Analytics, Puerto Rico lost up to $40 billion in economic output and suffered another $55 billion in property damage because of Hurrican Maria, which hit the island as a Category 4 storm just eight days ago. Puerto Rico was already suffering the effects of Hurricane Irma, which made indirect landfall on the island in late August. The losts incurred by Puerto Rico from Hurricane Maria add up to $95 billion in economic costs, which is rougly the value of a year's worth of economic activity on the island. In 2016, the island's output was about $100 billion in 2016. In addition, Puerto Rico's government is facing a public debt of some $74 billion. 


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.