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Puerto Rico Faces Extensive Damage After Hurricane Maria

Source: Mario Tama / Getty

While the people of Puerto Rico try to regain some semblance of normalcy, the odds (read: the government) seem to be continually stacked against them.

The latest devastating news?

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will “officially shut off” the mission after providing more than 30 million gallons of water and nearly 60 million meals (many of which included predominantly junk food). Due to several issues with getting the electricity grid working on the island, it is estimated that nearly half a million customers still don’t have electricity. However, FEMA claims that everything is “slowly” getting back to normal.

“The reality is that we just need to look around,” Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA’s leadership in Puerto Rico, said. “If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to the supermarkets to buy. It’s affecting the economy of Puerto Rico. So we need to create a balance. With the financial assistance we’re providing to families and municipalities, they’re able to go back to the normal economy.”

But not all Puerto Ricans have the same options. Municipalities that are deeper inside the island have proven more difficult to get to, and the people living there are dealing with scarce resources. Mayor Carmen Maldonado told press that in Morovis, a third of her residents are still receiving FEMA’s food and water rations.

“There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore because they’ve got nearly 100 percent of their energy and water back,” she said. “Ours is not so lucky. In municipalities like this one, where families are going out to work just to buy gas to run a generator, it becomes very hard. Because the money they would use to buy the food they’re just buying fuel.”

In a municipality where 51 percent of the residents live below the poverty line, it’s more severe than not being able to buy food. Many can’t even afford to buy a generator that would allow them to run their household appliances to hold and prepare food in their homes. FEMA said it would give remaining food and water stores to the Puerto Rican government for distribution, but Maldonado says she still hasn’t received information on how to get the additional rations for her town.