About 13,000 residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who arrived in Connecticut in the aftermath of the hurricanes Maria and Irma continue to struggle with obtaining basic needs including adequate housing, food, medical care and jobs, according to a survey commissioned by the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving.
The vast majority of those who have come to Connecticut, over 70 percent, have extremely low incomes (under $30,000), adding a heavy responsibility on an already over-extended and resource-limited Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, given the extreme levels of need that are present in the community, even before the storms. Approximately 1,300 people participated in the survey, which utilized online and in-person questionnaires in English and Spanish and field research.
The survey was conducted by the University of Connecticut's El Instituto: Institute for Latina/o Caribbean and Latin American Studies and the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College. The objective was to understand the long-term impact of displacement on Puerto Rican households in the Greater Hartford region.
"Hurricanes Irma and Maria left the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands without electricity, without food, and without shelter," Governor Malloy said. "States like Connecticut and our non-profit partners needed to step-in and provide support and services which should have been provided by the federal government for evacuees seeking safety and shelter in our communities. We are grateful for the partners who worked on this survey and analysis. This report offers critical perspective on the unique needs and challenges experienced by evacuees and thereby allows for better informed decisions regarding targeted assistance."
The survey found that while some households surveyed had initially relied on the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for funding basic needs, the majority of those affected relied on Greater Hartford's nonprofit organizations, school districts and family members for support. During the 2018 Legislative Session, the Connecticut General Assembly approved $4.4 million in education and housing assistance for displace residents, including $1.5 million in aid to the departments of education, housing and social services.
"The Hartford region has one of the highest concentrations of people of Puerto Rican origin outside Puerto Rico and last year's hurricanes brought thousands more to the region, many of whom will likely stay," said Scott Gaul, the Hartford Foundation's director of Research and Evaluation. "The hurricanes were an unprecedented event, but we can anticipate similar crises will happen again. The survey is one tool to help the Hartford region understand the needs of evacuees and the potential long-term impacts of displacement."
Among this population:
"Survey respondents identified housing issues and insufficient food as the most critical needs they are facing in Connecticut, along with healthcare, in the after aftermath of the crisis. These are needs not only of those who are in the state already, but of those who are very likely to arrive in the short term," wrote Professors Charles R. Venator-Santiago, Associate Professor, Department of Political Science and El Instituto and Carlos Vargas Ramos, Center for Puerto Rican Studies.
Results from the survey will help inform long-term planning and action by funders, nonprofits, municipalities and schools. The Foundation will work with community organizations and leaders in the region to disseminate and act on survey results.
The Hartford Foundation awarded $230,000 in grants from its Respond-Rebuild-Renew Fund to provide support services to residents impacted by relocation from the Caribbean and other disaster areas.
The Hartford Foundation for Public Giving is the community foundation for Hartford and 28 surrounding communities. Made possible by the gifts of generous individuals, families and organizations, the Foundation has awarded grants of more than $720 million since its founding in 1925. For more information about the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving, visit hfpg.org or call 860-548-1888.