Post-hurricane Puerto Rico turns to irreplaceable cash

calendar iconNov 30, 2017


Just over two months have passed since the hurricane devastation in Puerto Rico made headlines but the humanitarian crisis continues to plague the island. Almost half of the island is experiencing full or partial electricity failures, thus demand for cash remains "extraordinarily high"

As the Islanders, residents and tourists, burn through their savings just to get by, the tragedy serves as a sobering reminder. Whether you live on the coast or inland, having an emergency grab bag prepared is essential. Every government website has a page for the most-necessary items list, and we advise you follow its respective advice. You'll find that the most common top five items are: water, food, a first aid kit, important documents and, of course, cash.  

Excerpt from Reuters article by US News (27 Sep 2017)

Residents and tourists were counting their dwindling banknotes in the wake of Hurricane Maria, which crippled the electrical grid and communications network, turning the Caribbean island into a largely cash-based economy... Continue reading.

Excerpt from Reuters article (27 Sep 2017)

The Federal Reserve Bank of New York’s cash operations in Puerto Rico are working and it has adequate stocks of banknotes to meet the needs of depository institutions on the U.S. territory, a spokeswoman for the bank told Reuters...In the last month, Fed branches in Texas and Florida similarly stocked up on cash ahead of hurricanes Harvey and Irma, and ramped up deliveries to meet surges in demand... Continue reading.

Excerpt from CNNMoney article (28 Sep 2017)

In Puerto Rico, the survivors of Hurricane Maria are desperately scrambling for many of life's essentials -- food, fuel, water. And cash.... Continue reading.

Excerpt from New York Times article (29 Sep 2017)

Juan Jimenez squinted into the dark lobby of his bank early Friday, thinking about the paycheck sitting in his account, just behind the locked doors. If only he could get to it... Continue reading.

“You’re broke even if you have money,”
"Juan Jimenez, 40As quoted on New York TimesReferring to inaccessible money in bank accounts

Excerpt from Cash Essentials article (5 Oct 2017)

Natural disasters are the perfect example of how vulnerable to system failures digital networks can be. In emergency situations, cash is the only payment method people can rely on. This is why it is considered as an essential good that should be stocked at home by many institutions, alongside water and medicine... Continue reading.

Excerpt from CNNMoney article (18 Oct 2017) 

For weeks, Puerto Ricans have been waiting in long lines to get cash, food, water and gas. But banks have had a harder time reopening than other stores. Nearly 80% of gas stations are open, and 90% of supermarkets. But only 203 of 314 bank branches on the island are open, according to government figures... Continue reading.

"When the telecommunication is down and the energy is down in most of the places, then you're going to have to do a cash-based economy,"
"Ricardo RosselloPuerto Rico GovernorAs quoted on CNNMoney

Excerpt from CNN article (18 Oct 2017) 

Stores without electricity only accept cash, and the only way to get cash is to wait in ATM lines for hours. During my time in Puerto Rico -- I arrived three days after the storm and was there for more than two weeks -- I saw people standing outside, waiting to use ATMs long after the 7 p.m. curfew (which has now been extended to midnight) when the risk of carrying cash is high. The next day, they had to wait in line for many more hours to buy gas and then in another line to buy food or ice... Continue reading.

Prior to the earthquakes hitting Puerto Rico, nearby islands and Florida and Texas, De La Rue published an article in response to the 'earthquakes, hurricanes, major floods, [and] all natural disasters' that devastated a substantial number of people around the world over the past few years. The article discusses cash as a payment system that is not only the most reliable in the face of unexpected natural disasters but a part of the solution that harmonizes the road to an affected society's recovery.

Excerpt from De La Rue article (27 Aug 2017)

Using case studies from disaster struck areas around the world such as Haiti and the Philippines, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has reported a new policy momentum for putting cash at the heart of humanitarian response. It has declared that, in the right context, cash can be more effective, efficient, and cheaper than in-kind aid, while benefiting the local economy. It also supports harmonization between relief efforts and longer-term recovery.

The World Bank recently stated that 80% of the world’s largest cities are vulnerable to severe earthquakes and flooding... Continue reading.




Cash Essentials News. "Cash: an essential commodity in post-hurricane Puerto Rico". Cash Essentials. Electronically published October 5, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017.

De La Rue News. "The importance of cash in a time of crisis". De La Rue. Electronically published August 27, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017.


Gillespie, Patrick. "Puerto Rico's cash crisis: 35% of banks still closed". CNNMoney. Electronically published September 28, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017. 

Gillespie, Patrick and Jill Disis. "The people of Puerto Rico are in a desperate scramble for cash". CNNMoney. Electronically published October 18, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017. 

O'Byrne, Mark. "Puerto Rico Without Electricity, Wifi, ATMs Shows Importance of Cash, Gold and Silver". GoldCore. Electronically published October 13, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017.

Peterson, E. Anne. "America, Puerto Rico still needs your help". Electronically published October 18, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017. 

Spicer, Jonathan and Andrew Hay. "Cash Demand Soars in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Hit ATMs, Card Systems" Frances Kerry. Reuters. Electronically published September 27, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017. 

Spicer, Jonathan, Robin Respaut and Saqib Iqbal Ahmed. "Cash Demand Soars in Puerto Rico After Hurricane Hit ATMs, Card Systems". Thomson Reuters. Electronically published September 27, 2017. Accessed 20 November 2017

Last Updated: Jan 3, 2018