The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reached the milestone of 10,000 projects approved to address the damage after Hurricane María. This total represents nearly $28 billion in funds to address various works that vary between emergency work and the reconstruction of roads, public buildings, community spaces and others.
The largest number of projects with allocated funds corresponds to the municipalities, which represent over 62 percent of the works approved to date. Likewise, the health and social services sector—which includes hospitals, elderly care centers and houses of worship—comprises a total of 1,226 projects under this category.
“On our way to almost five years since the strike of Hurricane María, this achievement of 10,000 projects seeks to promote a robust socioeconomic future for all Puerto Rico residents. The transformation of the island is noticeable as these projects become works completed for the benefit of all our communities. We will continue with this accelerated pace in the approval of funds,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero.
The federal official explained that the agency has a total of 695 eligible applicants, including government agencies, municipalities and nonprofit organizations. Of these, more than 65 percent have already completed their Recovery Transition Meeting (RTM), a final FEMA meeting with applicants who have allocated funds for all their projects.
In this meeting, the agency confirms that all damage was properly documented, explains the deadlines for completing the projects and ensures that the applicant understands the terms and conditions of the projects, among other matters.
One of the projects that stands out in the category of parks and recreational facilities is the reconstruction of the iconic Francisco “Paquito” Montaner Stadium in Ponce. After the repairs, the home of the Leones is once again hosting major events for Puerto Rican and international sports, thanks to an allocation of $4 million.
The Paquito Montaner administrator, Misael Medina Meléndez, was satisfied with this process. “I know that this would not have been possible without FEMA. When I saw them, hope, faith, became a little more solid, that this was going to move forward. And we are seeing it now,” he said.
Meanwhile, in the health sector, another noteworthy project is the reconstruction of the new Diagnosis and Treatment Center (CDT, for its Spanish acronym) in Vieques. With an allocation of $43.5 million, the renovated facilities will have an emergency room and outpatient clinics. The space will also offer dental services, as well as dialysis, laboratory, radiology and pharmacy, among others.
According to the mayor of the Isla Nena, José Corcino Acevedo, the new structure will have double the functional space, as well as a water tank and a power generator with tanks to store fuel.
Another recently approved project includes the repairs to the Adjuntas CDT for $2.4 million.
As for works directed to roads and bridges, Puerto Rico already has 2,893 projects awarded, for a total of $1.5 billion in funds. This contemplates the repair of roads in rural communities in Coamo, Hormigueros, Jayuya, Utuado, Villalba and other municipalities, for a more resistant road infrastructure.
Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi said, “I thank the Biden-Harris Administration and to all the FEMA team for the great support they have given us since my government began. Together, we have routed the reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The approval of 10,000 projects proves the success of the joint work between the federal government and our government to achieve a more resilient island while we foster our economic development”.
On the other hand, in the municipality of Hormigueros, the asphalt, gutters and concrete curves will be repaired in various road sites in the Guanajibo, Hormigueros and Jaguitas neighborhoods. With an allocation of over $576,000, the repairs include mitigation works to stabilize and strengthen the embankment on roads in the Hoya Grande sector.
The Cerro Gordo community bridge in Villalba is another project that is already underway to provide access to over 500 families in the sector, after an investment of nearly $2.3 million. The mayor of the municipality, Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz, explained that whenever it rained in this sector, the two streams that merged destroyed their access. “This is the most challenging infrastructure project in our city, in terms of bridge construction and road access,” he added. Repairs will include the replacement of culverts, drainage, guardrails and nearly $1.2 million in mitigation funds for a renovated bridge with a fortified structure resistant to the ravages of major natural disasters.
The director of the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, pointed out that, “in COR3 and FEMA we work in synergy, tempering ourselves with the progress of executing more than 2,742 reconstruction projects that translate into better roads, bridges, water facilities and buildings, as well as other projects that transform the electrical and aqueduct network. Fulfilling Governor Pedro Pierluisi’s commitment to advance reconstruction, we have implemented changes to Chapter 7 of the internal policies on disbursement processes and cash management, to achieve greater efficiency in these procedures. Thanks to the changes that FEMA allowed, we are on track to repay and/or advance $1 billion by the end of the year. Without a doubt, these 10,000 projects approved by FEMA will continue their development with our personalized technical assistance so that citizens have safe and resilient facilities.”