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Two Years After Hurricane Maria, Survivors and Mainland Puerto Ricans Spearhead Recovery Efforts Amid Government Mess

What to Know

  • Sept. 20 marks two years since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico and recovery efforts continue with survivors leading the way
  • The biggest obstacles for local initiatives is the lack of a robust, ongoing philanthropic presence on the island, local leaders say
  • A nonprofit found that more than half of the nearly $400 million in philanthropic contributions post-Maria came from mainland Puerto Ricans

Exactly two years ago, flood waters from Hurricane Maria submerged entire neighborhoods in the town of Toa Baja in Puerto Rico's northern coast — some of the deadly storm survivors are now spearheading recovery efforts following frustrations from the local and federal governments, NBC News reports.

"The hurricane made them leaders," said Carla Alonso, who leads an islandwide community initiative through Espacios Abiertos, a nonprofit that promotes government transparency and civic engagement. But the biggest obstacles for these initiatives is the lack of a robust, ongoing philanthropic presence on the U.S. territory, an issue that has been acutely felt these past two years.

In a given year, U.S. philanthropic foundations were only directing an average of $5.8 million annually to Puerto Rico. After Hurricane Maria, mostly mainland Puerto Ricans stepped up to help. 

Puerto Rico Funders Network, a nonprofit seeking to promote strategic philanthropic investments on the island, found that 41 donors accounted for nearly $400 million in philanthropic contributions post-Maria. More than half came from stateside Puerto Ricans.

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