Puerto Rico is a Caribbean island between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of the Dominican Republic. A population of 3.194 million resides in Puerto Rico and represents more than 0.04% of the world population, yet many are living in severe levels of poverty to this day. Puerto Rico has been dynamic and competitive when it comes to its local economies until recent years. Its economy now relies mostly on aid from the United States government. Here are seven facts about poverty in Puerto Rico.
7 Facts About Poverty in Puerto Rico
- More than 44% of the population of Puerto Rico lives in poverty, compared to the national U.S. average of approximately 12%. That is 1.4 million Puerto Rican citizens in comparison to 39.3 million U.S. citizens. Puerto Rico relies mainly on financial and federal aid from the U.S. government because it has ties to the U.S. as a U.S. colony. As a result, the country often struggles to independently support itself.
- Before the recent hurricanes, around 1.5 million of the Puerto Rican population suffered from food insecurity. The child food insecurity rate was 56%, which is 281,335 Puerto Rican children. The main reason for food insecurity is that hurricane season often hits Puerto Rico rather hard, and its access to imported goods only comes from the U.S. There are local countries and islands surrounding that are willing to help, but due to the ruling that Puerto Rico can only receive U.S. goods, these essential goods have higher tax rates. To improve this, the Puerto Rican governor organized committees to correspond with third party task forces in the U.S. to ship essential supplies over, especially after Hurricane Maria.
- Hurricane Maria, the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, made landfall on September 20, 2017. It compounded the destruction that Hurricane Irma caused just weeks before, affecting residential living, wildlife and everything in between. For example, areas that Hurricane Maria hit left homes without a proper roof, even over 600 days after the hurricane. Infrastructure damage can only receive so many repairs, as when hurricane season returns less than a year later, Puerto Rico often lacks proper recovery and preparation. An NGO aid project called All Hands Volunteers kickstarted to gut and remove debris, as well as demolish unsafe structures and repair cement roofing. It operates out of two cities, Barranquitas and Yabucoa.
- A year after Hurricane Maria, 10s of thousands in Puerto Rico are still living under blue tarps, designed as temporary roofs. This is the result of a lack of funds, resources and helping hands to Puerto Rico during its greatest and most desperate time of need. To improve this, task forces in U.S. states like Florida have been using small charter planes to import essential goods and supplies to bring relief and rebuild as best as possible. This is necessary even years after the initial storm.
- Families are struggling to find work to afford food, water, shelter and resources to rebuild their homes. Whether families have a solid income or not, it is apparent that most are food insecure to this day as a result of the storm. This is especially accurate when 80% of the island or 2.5 million people were without electricity for over a year after the hurricane. People also only have employment from establishments that are still standing or that people rebuilt.
- Due to the living conditions of the island, several thousand citizens have moved out of Puerto Rico and have yet to return. This could mean that they flew to stay with family in the U.S. or had to find work and shelter elsewhere with short notice. Some left temporarily, and others have yet to return to their homes due to a lack of funds for repairs. Puerto Rico wants to avoid further devastation and harm to its citizens during the season.
- While Puerto Rico is still recovering, the damage it experienced could have been much worse. The citizens still living on the island have shown compassion, resilience and teamwork toward one another. Without water or power, the people have shown great strength and support through waiting for recovery assistance, both financially and physically. This shows that against all odds, the citizens of Puerto Rico have managed to come back with all the strength they could muster to rebuild and recover.
Poverty in Puerto Rico is minimizing gradually and it is thanks to the help and assistance from the citizens of the United States standing alongside the island. These seven facts about poverty in Puerto Rico have shown that hurricane season will always have a destructive impact, but with continued assistance, poverty in Puerto Rico can reduce.
– Kimberly Elsey