The latest: "Banco Popular headquarters in Santurce is allowing ATM withdrawals for anyone. I don't know if that's the case at branch locations. Most locations are still closed with no ATM access. Some Walgreens are now accepting debit and EBT transactions, but very few are open. Gas limit restriction has been changed to now allow you a full tank of gas. The police and military are still monitoring gas lines which are still hours long, but there is not yet a sense of panic from most people. We have lost running water, but have made connections to get more if we need it."
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This is a serious problem, but please know that almost everyone is doing the best they can, and families, neighbors, and communities are coming together and helping each other out.
Some Banks on the island are only allowing ATM transactions if you have an account at that bank, even though they are on the standard networks (Cirrus, Star, Pulse, Visa, etc). Additionally, the lines to get to these ATMs are hours long. I attempted last night to withdraw cash, only to have my transaction declined. I am fortunate that I withdrew cash before the storm, but many others are not so fortunate, or didn't have any money in their accounts to take out.
I don't know of any way to put pressure on these banks, so if you do, please spread the word. Everyone needs access to money. I can say with certainty that this is happening with Banco Popular, and Coperativa Oriental. I've heard others are doing the same thing, but I can't confirm. I believe this is in violation of the terms of service for Visa, but I can't get enough Internet connectivity to verify that. It is easier to upload to the Internet than to download.
The only way to purchase goods and services on the island is with cash. Some banks are open and allowing access to withdrawal from an account, but I stress SOME. If you don't have a local bank, or if you are trying to access money from government benefit cards (Tanif, Dinero Efectivo, etc) you have no means of access. Food Stamp Cards, EBT, SNAP, etc. is not able to be used at any store that is selling food.
From conversations with people in lines, I'm hearing the desperation of mothers trying to feed their kids. The lines to get into grocery stores are hours long. The same for gas, pharmacies, and the very few places that are serving the remains of their not yet perished foods. Some places have generators, but with the hours long wait in line for gas, and only being allowed to purchase $30 worth of gas at a time, they're starting to run dry. I also can't tell for sure that the $30 I would pay today for gas will get me as much as the $30 I spent the other day.
I am hearing of price gouging for products and services. People are running out of money and food. There is a police presence at stores and gas station, and I've seen military at a few places, but the presence is limited. So far the crowds and lines I've witnessed are peaceful, and I hope they remain so, but patience is wearing thin. No more Red Cross trucks have come to our town, but there are Red Cross personnel at the Veterans Hospital in San Juan.
Electric crews are working hard, but the damage is so widespread that it could take a very long time to restore service, so stores will not be operating as normal. We need some way to allow people access to their food and cash benefits. These are the people most in need and least likely to have transportation or the ability to wait an entire day in line to accomplish one thing.
So far we have no mail or delivery services, and I wouldn't recommend mailing cash.