Puerto Rico Gov’t Official: We’re Working With Scenario That 15% of Residents Will Leave Due to Hurricane

At the Tuesday morning meeting of the Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico, Christian Sobrino Vega, who represents the government of Puerto Rico on the board, said that the island is working with assumptions and scenarios that 15% of residents have left since Hurricane Maria hit on September 20.

In response to a question from board member Ana Matosantos, Sobrino Vega said this:

“Assumptions on outmigration are going to be fundamental assumptions in the re-evaluation of any fiscal plan, and outmigration from the island during this hurricane… I think it’s something that you learn as you go along you’re building the plane while you’re flying it is that the community and support structure that had already been established in Florida and Texas… Georgia, made moving from the island more easy then maybe in years past. There are reports, for example, the CUNY report, that speak of 10 percent. But at this stage we are still compiling data from the airport, from flights leaving the island and those coming back to get to a more determined number. But we are for example when Natalie’s [Natalie Jaresko, board’s Executive Director] team met with a FOPS team to conduct some scenarios, I believe the scenarios that we’re looking at was 15 percent.”

After Matosantos thanked Sobrino Vega for his answer, another board member said, “That’s terrible.”

With Puerto Rico’s population at about 3.4 million people, a 15% scenario would be at around 510,000 people. The latest study from CUNY’s Center for Puerto Rican Studies stated that “we estimate that between 114,000 and 213,000 Puerto Rico residents will leave the island annually in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. From 2017 to 2019, we estimate that Puerto Rico may lose up to 470,335 residents or 14% of the population. In other words, Puerto Rico will lose the same population in a span of a couple of years after Hurricane Maria as the island lost during a prior decade of economic stagnation.”

That’s terrible.

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