Lin-Manuel Miranda, others seek Puerto Rico silver lining


NEW YORK (AP) — Five years after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico and exposed the funding problems the Caribbean island has long faced, philanthropists warn that many of those issues remain unaddressed, just like the repairs still needed for the American territory’s physical infrastructure.

The Category 4 storm, with winds reaching 155 miles per hour (250 kilometers per hour), killed dozens immediately on Sept. 20, 2017 and researchers estimate thousands more died in the aftermath due to the lack of permanent shelter and power. According to a Hispanic Federation report released Wednesday, Hurricane Maria did an estimated $90 billion in damage to the island.

“It was just such a scary moment,” said “Hamilton” creator Lin-Manuel Miranda, who helped mobilize millions in aid for Puerto Rico. “But one of the silver linings has been the coalition building between the diaspora and residents on the island that was really formed out of those challenges.”

That coalition building was sorely needed, because Puerto Rico and its residents have an unusual image problem in philanthropy, said Hispanic Federation President and CEO Frankie Miranda. International nonprofits generally left it out of donations given to the neediest populations because it is part of the United States, while American nonprofits often left it out of programs by earmarking donations only for the 50 states.

That long-running problem was intensified by what critics say was former President Donald Trump’s administration’s slow response to Hurricane Maria, which extended the impact of the storm, including the longest blackout in American history.

“It was about fairness,” said Frankie Miranda, adding that some federal recovery funds are only getting to Puerto Rico now. “It was about equity. We were not getting the fair share for people on the island compared to other disasters happening in the United States. So we needed to act.”

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