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From our Expert Voices conversation on Puerto Rico's recovery from Hurricane Maria.

Hurricane Maria was more than a disaster for Puerto Rico, it was a catastrophe. As a U.S. territory, the island is entitled to all the resources freed up by a presidential disaster declaration, but these mainly address the needs of short-term housing and business recovery and the restoration of publicly owned infrastructure.

Rebuilding communities, and especially doing so with resilience in mind, will require a large infusion of funding. The alternative is a protracted humanitarian crisis that drives out people and businesses. It took more than ten years for New Orleans to return to its pre-Katrina population, but the demographics of the city changed irreversibly in the process. Many people found their networks and cultures permanently displaced.

Given Puerto Rico's prior economic challenges and isolated geography, the risks that the island's fragile economy will spiral downward are increasing. With the tragedy of catastrophe also come opportunities for innovation and change. But to seize these, the planning for long-term recovery has to be collaborative and inclusive—not top-down. Residents, businesses, institutions, and the financial sector must all be motivated to stay and tip in.

What's next: In the dynamic recovery phase, leaders have to anticipate the potential for cascading and unintended consequences, and engage the community for sustainable redevelopment.

Other voices in the conversation:

Go deeper

The separate and unequal paths in business

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

When a bank turned down George Johnson for a business loan, he got creative. He returned and told the bank he needed $250 to take his wife on a vacation — and was approved. Then he invested the cash in his business, which became the first Black enterprise to trade on the American Stock Exchange.

Why it matters: The highways to success in the U.S. market economy — in entrepreneurship, corporate leadership and wealth creation — are often punctuated with roadblocks and winding detours for people of color.

GOP state legislatures move to assert control over election systems

Contractors in Phoenix in May 2021 recounting ballots as part of a 2020 general election audit requested by the Arizona State Senate. Photo: Courtney Pedroza for the Washington Post

Republican-held state legislatures have passed bills that give lawmakers more power over the vote by stripping secretaries of state of their power, asserting control over election boards and creating easier methods to overturn election results, according to the New York Times.

Why it matters: The bills, triggered by baseless claims of widespread fraud in the 2020 election, threaten to politicize traditionally non-partisan election functions by giving Republicans more control over election systems.