Miriam Medina's house in Canovanas, Puerto Rico, was "completely lost" following Hurricane Maria nearly eight months ago and she's lost count of all the times FEMA denied her individual assistance application because she couldn’t prove to them that she owned the home, NBC News reported.
The house sits on a piece of land Medina bought for $1,500 almost two decades ago, eventually building a home there alongside her ex-husband.
In order to be eligible for FEMA aid under the individual assistance program, applicants need proper documents to provide proof of home ownership.
The number of such denied applications — 335,748 out of 1.1 million claims — highlights a history of illegal construction and poor housing development on the island, mainly in poorer communities. Some neighborhoods across the island established themselves in the aftermath of past hurricanes.
Applicants have a chance to appeal any FEMA decision and there are other forms of aid available. But Puerto Ricans who live in communities that were informally built and without permits on government or privately owned lands continue to have a hard time navigating FEMA’s hurdles.