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National Disaster Legal Aid

Please note this page is no longer being updated as of February 2021.

Puerto Rico Earthquakes 2020 Recovery Information

The Disaster Legal Hotline is 1-800-981-5342 

Earthquakes and tremors struck areas in Puerto Rico beginning on December 28, 2019, and continuing. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced on January 16,2020that federal disaster assistance has been made available to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico to supplement state and local recovery efforts in the areas, making federal funding available for emergency work and to individuals and businesses owners who sustain damage as a result of the earthquakes. 

People in the following municipalities are eligible to receive federal disaster assistance:

  • Adjuntas, Aguada, Añasco, Arecibo, Barceloneta, Cabo Rojo, Ciales, Coamo, Corozal, Guánica, Guayanilla, Hormigueros, Jayuya, Juana Díaz, Lajas, Lares, Las Marías, Maricao, Mayagüez, Moca, Morovis, Naranjito, Orocovis, Peñuelas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San Germán, San Sebastián, Santa Isabel, Utuado, Villalba and Yauco.  (includes municipalities added after the disaster declaration). 

Only people in these municipalities can apply for FEMA benefits at this time. Additional areas may be designated later. Please check here for official updates. 

As of March 10, 2020, FEMA will suspend, until March 30, in-field operations in support of the Puerto Rico earthquakes. FEMA personnel will continue to work on the island to support survivors. For more information, click here.

Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA) is now available. Individuals who lost their jobs because of the earthquakes in southwest Puerto Rico and live or work in any of the 25 municipalities FEMA approved for assistance may be eligible to receive unemployment benefits. DUA is intended for employees or self-employed individuals who lost their jobs as a direct result of a major disaster. The deadline to file for DUA is June 30, 2020

To be eligible for Disaster Unemployment Assistance, individuals must:

  • File a regular unemployment insurance claim and be determined ineligible for benefits.
  • Be unemployed or partially unemployed as a direct result of the major disaster.
  • Be able and available for work, unless injured as a direct result of the disaster.
  • File an application for DUA within 30 days of the date of the announcement of the availability of DUA benefits.
  • Have not refused an offer of employment in a suitable position.


FEMA Application Deadline Extended to July 2, 2020 Click here for more info. 
Appeal Your FEMA Decision Letter  Within 60 days of the date on the determination letter

Deadline to file for Disaster Unemployment Assistance (DUA)

Extended to June 30, 2020 Click here for more info 

Key resources for those impacted by the Earthquakes

Government Disaster Relief Benefits

  • Residents and businesses affected by the storms can apply for government disaster relief benefits in several ways.  Individuals, including those who use 711 relay or VRS, can call 1-800-621-FEMA (3362). Those who use TTY can call 1-800-462-7585. The toll-free telephone numbers will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. EDT seven days a week until further notice. Multilingual operators are available. Press 2 for Spanish and press 3 for other languages.

  • Text “DRC” and a zip code to 43362 (4FEMA) to locate a Disaster Recovery Center in your area (standard message and data rates apply).

  • Another option is to register online at or via web-enabled phone or tablet.

  • SBA Disaster Loans are available for those who qualify.

  • For official news and press releases related to this disaster, please visit FEMA's Updates Page

  • Note: Apply to FEMA to trigger the SBA Disaster loan process. Low-interest disaster loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available for eligible applicants. For more information, you may contact SBA’s Disaster Assistance Customer Service Center by calling 800-659-2955, emailing, or visiting SBA’s website. Deaf and hard-of-hearing individuals may call 800-877-8339.

  • Want to understand the FEMA application process better? Click here to access "Figuring Out FEMA."

Legal Assistance and Other Resources  

  • Free legal assistance is available to earthquake survivors through the Disaster Relief Hotline:  1- 800-981-5342.
    • This hotline is hosted by Puerto Rico Legal Services and will operate during Monday through Friday from 8:00 am - 4:00pm Puerto Rico local time.
    • Callers can leave a voicemail outside of normal business hours. When connected to the hotline, callers should provide their name, phone number, brief details of the assistance needed and what county they live.
    • Individuals who qualify for assistance will be matched with Puerto Rico lawyers who have volunteered to provide free legal assistance. Please see the press release  for more information.
  • Other Legal Help 
    • Puerto Rico Legal Services ( Servicios Legales de Puerto Rico) - A non-profit that provides civil legal assistance for low-income, elderly, and disaster-affected residents of Puerto Rico through a toll- free hotline, court-based help desks, and community legal clinics.
    • Legal Help Puerto Rico ( Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico) - Bookmark for additional updates and legal rights information. 

Other helpful resources to help address legal needs resulting from this disaster

Are you a volunteer attorney able to help with response efforts?

General safety and shelter resources