Since Hurricane Maria ravaged homes in Puerto Rico last September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied at least 335,748 applications for disaster assistance, and has either rejected or not responded to 79 percent of appeals.
It's hurricane season again, and for residents like Ramón Paez Marte, they are still dealing with damage done in 2017. He lives in Canóvanas, and his home is missing part of the roof and has a broken door. Paez Marte told NBC News he's applied for assistance, but has been told he's ineligible. FEMA requires people prove their houses were damaged, and they must be inspected by officials. Residents also have to prove their identities and home ownership status, but that's an issue in Puerto Rico, where houses are passed down, some are built without legal permits, and many don't have a title or deed.
Paez Marte gave FEMA a letter from the mayor of Canóvanas, which stated he had owned his home for about 20 years; his appeal was rejected, with FEMA saying he couldn't prove that was his house. "I don't live here because I want to," he told NBC News. "No one that lives here, lives here willingly. They're here because we truly have nowhere else to go." Catherine Garcia