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Saturday, February 24, 2024

FEMA Reviews the Five Years After María with Historic Mayors’ Summit

Agency staff also participated in the event to answer questions and address inquiries from the mayors about ongoing municipal projects.

Lessons learned, work completed and work in progress were the main objectives of the Mayors’ Summit led by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). The event, which took place at the Yolanda Guerrero Cultural Center in Guaynabo, was attended by Governor Pedro R. Pierluisi, mayors and municipal support staff.

Among the topics addressed, officials discussed the diversity of funds available under the federal Stafford Act and the allocations approved to date. They also highlighted major projects – some with obligated funds, others already under construction – that have resulted in allocations that have a direct impact on communities and the local economy.

Among the significant allocations, those awarded through the FEMA Accelerated Awards Strategy (FAASt) were highlighted and how the bulk approval of these funds will allow for a faster reconstruction of the facilities of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, the Department of Education and for public housing structures under the Department of Housing.

Agency staff also participated in the event to answer questions and address inquiries from the mayors about ongoing municipal projects.

Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said the agency will continue to work alongside COR3, the local government and the other subrecipients to continue supporting the reconstruction process, which, although it will take time, remains at an ongoing steady pace. He also emphasized that the goal for 2022 is to complete most of the pending allocations, in addition to supporting the transition of projects to the construction phase.

Meanwhile, Governor Hon. Pedro R. Pierluisi stated that his commitment is to make all the expected projects a reality since 75 percent of the reconstruction is corresponds to municipalities. “My goal is that every town on our island can see that change, that every Puerto Rican can feel reassured and confident about our future. To that end, our mayors can count on the fact that my administration will continue to step up its efforts to assist them in everything that has to do with Hurricane María’s recovery and with all the projects to build the Puerto Rico that we all want,” the governor said.

Of the over 10,000 projects approved by FEMA to date, over 6,000 are for municipalities, representing around $3.3 billion in funds for permanent work corresponding to municipal projects.

For her part, the Mayor of the Municipality of Loíza, Julia Nazario Fuentes, stated that 79 percent of the municipality’s roads are already paved and highlighted the restored parks and recreational areas as reconstruction projects of great benefit to the communities. She also explained that her small projects are nearing completion and that they are already in the design process for the large projects. “After María, people’s spirits were greatly affected. But seeing the streets paved and the infrastructure renovated lifts their spirits. Loíza is very beautiful. We still have a long way to go, but we’re on the right track,” the mayor added.

Likewise, the Mayor of the Municipality of Orocovis, Hon. Jesús Colón Berlingeri, stated that they’ve already completed close to 90 projects in different communities and that they’ll now focus on large projects, such as the Elderly Center, the Fine Arts Center and one of the bridges that connects communities in Ciales with another community in Orocovis. He stated that patience and preparation are two of the lessons he has learned during the reconstruction process.

At the event, the next steps regarding the reconstruction for the Island were also discussed as well as FEMA’s commitment. Going forward, the Agency seeks to continue its support for hazard mitigation projects and to define alternative projects for a more efficient recovery.

Meanwhile, the Executive Director of the Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), Manuel Laboy, reviewed several key points of the reconstruction process and highlighted that it’s the municipalities who are leading the metrics. He also identified that the office’s vision remains focused on transforming infrastructure and communities, building resilience to climate change, and achieving economic development in Puerto Rico.

“I’m extremely satisfied with the relationship we’ve established with the municipalities. We’ve shown that you’re very important for the reconstruction. We’re extremely grateful for FEMA’s support and with the relationship and support we have with you, the mayors. We’re not going to let our guard down. We want to continue to be an agent of support to channel your reconstruction projects,” added the engineer.

Read more at FEMA

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