Puerto Rico was in crisis long before Hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20, 2017.
To say that the island of 3.3 million has not yet recovered – from the damage or the trauma – is an understatement. One year after Maria, nearly every pillar of Puerto Rican society remains devastated.
Here’s a snapshot of Puerto Rico today, based on my academic research and visits to family who stayed on the island both during and after the hurricane.
1. The economy
A few months after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico’s government proposed significant changes to the fiscal plan put in place in 2017 by the federally appointed financial management board that has run Puerto Rico’s economy since its bankruptcy.
In light of Puerto Rico’s post-disaster needs, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sought to ease some cuts to education and public services while still paying down Puerto Rico’s $73 billion debt.
The ongoing austerity measures have complicated Puerto Rico attempts to recover economically from Maria.
Maria also destroyed nearly all agricultural production in Puerto Rico.
There is one bright spot: For the first time since 2013, unemployment on the island is below 10 percentbecause rebuilding has created so many construction jobs. Those positions, however, are temporary.
2. Health care
But its health care sector remains devastated by the storm.
According to Dr. Wendy Matos, executive director of the University of Puerto Rico’s faculty practice plan, most health service providers in Puerto Rico are privately owned. That means the bad news about shuttered small businesses and mass unemployment applies to the island’s health care sector.
Education is another of Hurricane Maria’s casualties.