Puerto Rico’s Small Businesses Were Underinsured for Maria Damages

September 28, 2018

Only a tiny fraction of small businesses in Puerto Rico was fully insured for losses arising from last year’s Hurricane Maria, which hit revenue or raised costs for more than three-quarters of them, according to a Federal Reserve report on Thursday.

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, which surveyed more than 400 small businesses, found that some 63 percent of them had insurance in September last year, when Maria, the most powerful storm in almost a century, battered the Caribbean island.

Some 77 percent of the firms reported losses, including higher costs and lower revenues, directly from hurricanes Maria and Irma, which struck weeks earlier. Four percent of those surveyed had losses that were fully covered.

“This report is another reminder of the extraordinary needs and opportunities for investment that exist on the island,” Fed Governor Lael Brainard said in a statement urging lenders to “seriously consider Puerto Rico and other storm damaged areas” in earmarking Community Reinvestment Act funds.

Nearly 3,000 died after Maria made landfall with winds close to 150 miles per hour (240 km per hour) and plowed a path of destruction, causing property damage estimated at $90 billion and leaving much of the island without electricity for months.

The New York Fed survey, done between March and May of this year, found 22 percent of affected businesses applied for financing to address hurricane losses, most via government entities.

(Reporting by Jonathan Spicer; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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