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FILE PHOTO: Cars drive under a partially collapsed utility pole, after the island was hit by Hurricane Maria in September, in Naguabo, Puerto Rico October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez/File Photo - RC122D20CBA0

Puerto Rico hurricane victims still need help. Here’s what you can do

Nearly seven weeks after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, more than half of the island remains without power.

Puerto Rico’s state-owned power authority, PREPA, is working to rebuild the electrical infrastructure decimated by the Category 5 storm, but 60 percent of the island is still without power. Some residents might not see their power restored until early 2018, Lt. Gen. Todd Semonite of the Army Corps of Engineers told 60 Minutes.

PREPA recently cancelled a $300 million deal with a small Montana firm called Whitefish Energy, after backlash over whether the firm, which had only two employees the day Maria made landfall, could rebuild the island’s power grid.

Water is also hard to find. Puerto Rico reports 85 percent of the island’s water meters are working, but many residents continue to collect water from creeks at the risk of acquiring waterborne diseases, according to USA Today.

Congress has approved nearly $5 billion in disaster aid for Puerto Rico, but more will be needed for the island to fully recover. At a hearing Tuesday before the House Natural Resources Committee, Natalie Jaresko, head of financial oversight and management board for Puerto Rico, said the territory will need an unprecedented level of help — between $13 billion to $21 billion over the next two years — to recover from the hurricane and keep the government running amid a fiscal crisis. An analysis by Moody’s estimates the total recovery effort could reach $95 billion.

Individuals and organizations came forward in droves to help the island when the hurricane first hit, but thousands on the island are still without basic necessities. Here are some of the campaigns still offering support, and how you can help:

Cash

  • ConPRmetidos, a nonprofit based in San Juan, and Foundation for Puerto Rico are trying to raise $10 million to finance long-term relief efforts. Donations to their Puerto Rico Real-Time Recovery Fund will be used to help restore power, fund structural repairs in the most marginalized communities and improve needs assessment efforts to identify and support unattended areas.
  • Unidos Por Puerto Rico was created through a partnership between the First Lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, and the private sector. The initiative is focused on helping individuals and small businesses on the island recoup by offering support for housing, food and health needs.
  • The Hurricane Maria Community Relief & Recovery Fund is supporting immediate and long-term rebuilding of Puerto Rico by awarding grants to local initiatives and low-income communities hardest hit by the hurricane.
  • The Center for Disaster Philanthropy is addressing medium and long-term recovery needs, including mental health treatment and the rebuilding of infrastructure, homes and businesses. Along with helping Puerto Rico, donations to the fund will provide relief to other areas in the U.S. mainland and the Caribbean ravaged by the 2017 hurricane season.
  • Other national and global humanitarian organizations, such as Oxfam, American Red Cross, International Medical Corps, Americares, Save the Children and The Salvation Army are collecting donations to mobilize supplies and volunteers on the island.
  • The crowdfunding platform GoFundMe has a list of other fundraising efforts by organizations and families you can donate to directly.
VEGA ALTA, PUERTO RICO - NOVEMBER 07:  A view of a house damaged by Hurricane Maria on November 7, 2017 in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico.  (Photo by Gladys Vega/Getty Images)

A view of a house damaged by Hurricane Maria is seen Nov. 7 in Vega Alta, Puerto Rico. Photo by Gladys Vega/Getty Images.

Supplies

  • Casa Pueblo, a nonprofit environmental watchdog in Adjuntas, Puerto Rico, has launched a campaign to distribute solar lanterns across the island. The organization, along with LuminAID, is seeking 20,000 solar lanterns. So far, they’ve collected 1,000. You can purchase a lantern directly on the group’s website (they take care of grouping the shipping).
  • Donations made to LifeStraw’s Safe Water Fund will help deliver LifeStraw water filtration systems — including the One LifeStraw Community water purifier, which can provide up to 26,400 gallons of safe water — to affected communities.
  • Operation Agua is another initiative that is distributing water filtration systems to the island’s remote areas. A $30 donation buys an in-home purifier for a family in need and provides up to 24 liters of filtered water per day.
  • UNICEF USA is distributing Emergency Relief Kits to children and families without access to clean water. Aside from essential sanitary products, the kits include water containers and water purification tablets to store clean water.

Volunteers

  • Hundreds of hurricane survivors are scrambling to apply for FEMA aid. You can volunteer to provide legal assistance to residents filing FEMA claims and trying to access other emergency funds. Ayudalegalpr.org offers free legal clinics across Puerto Rico and is looking for volunteer lawyers to help on the ground, as well as lawyers with expertise in offering aid after natural disasters who can advise from the mainland.
  • Sign up with Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD), which pairs volunteers with teams on the ground.
  • Visit Connect Relief to find other on-the-ground volunteer opportunities organized by foundations and individuals.

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