Then after New Year's, the killings started accelerating. Everything in Loiza feels quieter and emptier since Maria, residents said. Puerto Rico's suicide rate soared 29 percent after Hurricane Maria following decades of steady decline. Two years after Hurricane Maria, only one third of federal relief funds had reached the island. A year after Maria, Puerto Rico’s economy remains feeble Arthur Siemon walks though a field where he had planted 15,000 coffee seedlings before Hurricane Maria devastated the crop a … Puerto Rico's economy is estimated to shrink by about 2.1 percent in 2018, in the wake of reconstruction after Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit the island in 2017. It's unemployment rate in August was 10.1%, more than double the … Construction jobs have helped lower the unemployment rate below 10 percent for the first time in five years. And the decline in unemployment could be fueled in part by a worrying phenomenon: the migration of hundreds of thousands of working adults to the mainland United States. Nearly a year after the catastrophic storm, Puerto Rico’s feeble economy has shown little sign of progress for workers and small-business owners, jeopardizing the viability of entire industries and communities. It took more than 200 days to restore power to all Puerto Rico residents. Author Ryan Girdusky: Trump involvement 'critical' for GOP win in Georgia Senate runoff elections, You could soon be scrolling Facebook while gazing into the eyes of your dinner companion, Former Sanders press secretary: 'Principal concern' of Biden appointments should be policy, How to wash your hands to prevent coronavirus — because you're probably doing it wrong. The most important news stories of the day, curated by Post editors and delivered every morning. “People are disillusioned with everything,” said Maricruz Rivera Clemente, the director and founder of a nonprofit community organization in Loiza, a northern coastal town and heart of the island’s Afro-Caribbean heritage. Already boasting an unemployment rate of 10.1 percent as of August of this year, Puerto Rico has been struggling economically, and the damage caused by Maria could spell financial disaster. In mourning her father, the 49-year-old struggled to treat the patients she had left. Months after hurricane, Puerto Rican workers face worsening jobs crisis By Genevieve Leigh and Zac Corrigan 28 December 2017 Hundreds of thousands of workers in Puerto Rico are struggling to make ends meet through the holiday season as over two-thirds of the island’s 45,000 small and mid-size businesses remain closed. The unemployment rate and the migration rate in all occupations have continued to increase after Hurricane Maria. Following Hurricane Maria, the portion of the population over age 65 increased from 14% in 2008 to 21% in 2018 as many working-age adults sought better employment opportunities in the U.S. mainland. Puerto Rico’s economy was already fragile before Hurricane Maria barreled into the island, but the strongest storm to hit the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico in … She would love a school cafeteria job, but the vacancies are few because nearly a third of Puerto Rico’s public schools closed. Siemon’s remaining beans are safely tucked beneath two giant tarps that keep them dry after Maria tore apart the building’s aluminum siding. For Siemon, it took tens of thousands of dollars to bring his coffee farming and roasting business back into operation after Maria, and he has been rationing beans he bought before the storm to fill orders, reducing hours and wages for some of his employees in the process. Few across the island have fared better, as experts estimate the local coffee industry will produce about 10 percent of the coffee it normally brings to market every fall. Those with jobs worry that they will not have them in the near future. Fixing up her father’s properties to rent them appeared to be the most viable source of income. The July labor participation rate was 41 percent, a 0.1 percent dip from June, but a 1.4 percent raise compared to July 2017. It changes the fabric of a community, residents say, forcing residents to look for work outside their towns and to drive farther for services, losing those gathering places where locals stop and chat about life over coffee or an ice-cold Medalla. On September 20, 2017, the island of Puerto Rico underwent its worst hurricane ever, named Maria.Be i ng a category four hurricane with winds over 155 mph (250 km/h) (by the time it made landfall on Puerto Rico), the outcome of its crossing was chaotic, deadly and disastrous to the island, resulting in a death toll of over 4600 people, and over $90 billion in damage. Standing in an overgrown field with a Stetson atop his head, the 71-year-old looked down at the emptiness that was 15,000 seedlings, planted two years ago for his specialty coffee brand, Café de Puta Madre. If the bean shortage continues, he could be closing down by October. The official death count is 64. The Santanas, who live on the property, have been doing construction and landscaping to make up the loss. As a whole, the island’s agriculture industry has taken a $780 million hit from the storm, leading to closed businesses and lost jobs. “If this inequality continues, the recovery will only exacerbate it.”. “I cry sometimes, seeing my house like that. With no income for nearly a year, Clemente Vizcarrondo has been unable to repair her heavily damaged home and has been living with her daughter in the nearby town of Carolina. City Hall has started offering minimum-wage maintenance and cleaning jobs for four hours a day to help residents. The island reached a record low of suicides in 2016, with 196 in the year. With an official unemployment rate of 10.8 percent, nearly 118,000 people are out of work—a number many are predicting will skyrocket as small businesses continue to shut down and ramifications of the recent tax bill take effect. When businesses close and employers leave, the losses are more than economic. “My role changed completely, from a psychologist to a handywoman, from having a PhD to doing construction work,” Candelas Tamayo said. Meanwhile, her psychology practice was crashing. Three months without power forced Candelas Tamayo to close her practice, and once she reopened, her patients had disappeared. Many fled Puerto Rico or could no longer afford therapy. Since then, many on … A change in taxation policy prompted an exodus of lucrative business and reduced tax revenue; unemployment rates reached 45 percent. If we fall, everything here falls.”. Last week, the number of new claims for unemployment insurance in Puerto Rico was 1,469 -- slightly fewer than the number recorded the weeks before hurricanes Irma and Maria … The informal economy is as old and as inherently Puerto Rican as a plate of rice and beans, but the island’s current reality is pushing professionals such as psychologist Eva Candelas Tamayo to do jobs they never trained for or hoped to do to bring money home. A year later, the 52-year-old is still unemployed, and the barriers to reenter the workforce feel insurmountable. Hurricane Maria explains much of the decline over the last year. The gas stations depend on coffee workers. In October the official unemployment rate hit 8.3%, the lowest in more than 70 years. Fifteen Loiza businesses did not reopen after the storm. Clemente Vizcarrondo has struggled to find custodial work, in part because of her age, she said. Three years after Hurricane Maria, thousands of Puerto Rico’s residents are still recovering from the storm, even as the peak of the 2020 hurricane season begins. “You work in coffee, or you don’t have work. Candelas Tamayo’s father died from liver cancer days after the hurricane’s passage, when access to oncologists and radiation treatment was virtually nonexistent. By signing up you agree to our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy, Reporter covering the U.S. Southern border, Immigration, Texas and beyond, Reporter covering gender and family issues, Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation poll. In the last two years, Puerto Rico has seen an average of 56 homicides a month, a rate that held through December. It feels horrible,” Clemente Vizcarrondo said. The territory's number of active laborers was the highest since February 2013, with just over a million Puerto Ricans employed. 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