The University of Puerto Rico in Cayey, UPR-Cayey, says that poverty on the island has increased by 8 percent, from 44.3 to 52.3 percent since hurricane Maria hit on Sept. 20.
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According to the university’s study, many Puerto Ricans were living on the brink of poverty prior to when the Category 4 storm hit, and now have nearly no work and an increased cost of living. A study researcher, Jose Caraballo said that “the hurricane exacerbated poverty in Puerto Rico, leaving more than half the island in poverty.
Yet it's not just those who were already close to poverty who have fallen below the line. Many parts of the island are still without continuous electricity and water - and jobs. Because of this researchers estimate that an additional 254,900 people, who were previously earning between 25 and 50 percent over the poverty level are now living below it, which could bring the island poverty figure to nearly 60 percent.
And poverty on the island isn’t geographically uniform on the island. The rural municipalities located farther from the capital of San Juan are experiencing much higher rates of poverty than those closer to the northeastern capital. The municipality of Maricao has an infant poverty rate of 82 percent, and Barranquitas, 74. While Toa Alta infant poverty is at 35 percent, and Guaynabo 37 percent.
Hurricane Maria also accentuated the increasing lack of medical supplies on the island, including intravenous drips used for patients in hospitals. The rate of I.V. production on the island decreased in 2014 after factories in Puerto Rico lowered their input because of power outages. Some hospitals are using different size IVs to compensate.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Bernie Sanders and Senator Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, called for a new "emergency credit facility" of up to US$57.2 billion for Puerto Rico.
Reuters reports that Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello is seeking more than US$94 billion in disaster recovery aid, including US$31.1 billion for housing and US$17.8 billion to rebuild and bolster the power grid.