October 10, 2017 / 7:43 PM / 2 years ago

U.S. business agency approves only 13 Puerto Rico disaster loans

Debris is seen outside a home damaged by Hurricane Maria is seen in the Trujillo Alto municipality outside San Juan, Puerto Rico, October 9, 2017. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

NEW YORK (Reuters) - The U.S. Small Business Administration said on Tuesday it had approved just 13 disaster loans for homes in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Maria, nearly three weeks after the storm devastated the U.S. territory and its power grid.

“Infrastructure issues in Puerto Rico contributed to the slow submission of disaster loan applications,” SBA spokesperson Carol Chastang said in an email to Reuters.

SBA, which provides federal disaster assistance to homeowners, renters, businesses and non-profit organizations, approved the loans for a total of $748,300, said Yvette Jeffery, a public affairs specialist with SBA’s Office of Disaster Assistance.

The agency has yet to approve disaster loans to any business in Puerto Rico affected by Maria, Jeffery said.

By comparison, three weeks after Hurricane Harvey plowed through eastern Texas and Louisiana in August, SBA had approved 1,628 disaster loans for $143 million, said Chastang.

Maria, the most powerful hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly 90 years, destroyed the island’s power grid. Electricity and telecommunications are being restored at a slow rate.

Ramon Rosario, Puerto Rico’s secretary of public affairs and public policy, told reporters Tuesday that the island now has 16 percent of electricity service restored, up from 15 percent on Monday.

Reporting by Stephanie Kelly; Editing by Daniel Bases and Tom Brown

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