Puerto Rico will not recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria without up to $21 billion in aid from the US government, officials have said.
The executive director of the federal control board responsible for overseeing the Caribbean island's finances, Natalie Jaresko, says the US territory needs emergency and restoration funds "on an unprecedented scale" to restore housing, water and electricity.
Local authorities estimate that between $45bn and $95bn of damage has been caused by the September storm, but the US Congress has so far approved just short of $5bn in low-interest loans for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands as part of a $36.5 billion storm aid package.
In a testimony prepared for the House Natural Resources committee on Tuesday, Ms Jaresko said Puerto Rico would need between $13bn and $21bn to keep the government operational and cover the salaries of police officers, teachers and other state employees.
She said: "The hard truth is that the island now needs help – emergency and restoration funds and assistance on an unprecedented scale.
"Before the hurricanes, the board was determined that Puerto Rico could achieve balanced budgets, work its way through its debt problems, and develop a sustainable economy without federal aid. That is simply no longer possible."
Puerto Rico, which is home to 3.4 million Americans, had been in the midst of a fiscal crisis before Maria hit, with $74bn of debt.
Tuesday's hearing is the first to delve into its finances since the storm, with half of the island still without power and more than 90,000 residents leaving for Florida, lowering tax collection rates.
The control board has estimated that the population could drop by 170,000 – or 5% – before the end of the year.
Ms Jaresko added: "We know that Puerto Rico is experiencing a massive population exodus, but the exact amount of that exodus is unknowable."Let's