Puerto Rico first lady announces millions in aid for hurricane victims
SAN JUAN – The first lady of Puerto Rico, Beatriz Rosselló, announced Monday that United for Puerto Rico, a nonprofit created under an initiative by the First Lady’s Office, is redoubling efforts and expanding its work plan to assist the communities affected by the onslaught of Hurricane María.
The first lady announced during a press conference at the Puerto Rico Convention Center in Miramar, which is serving as the government’s emergency operations center (COE by its Spanish initials), that only weeks after its creation, the movement has already managed to raise some $11 million from the island’s private sector.
“We are going through moments that, at least my generation, had never seen. It’s not easy, but we’re going to take off. United for Puerto Rico was born after the scourge of Hurricane Irma with the idea of carrying out a telethon-like event to benefit those affected by the storm. “Then, when Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane María, the private organization adopted the cause and gave it structure and shape for a country-wide movement,” the first lady said.
Rosselló explained that the Treasury-certified nonprofit’s mission is to provide assistance to individuals and small businesses that have been affected by hurricanes Irma and María and accelerate their recovery, as well as helping restore people’s need for shelter, food and healthcare.
She said the organization’s main objective is to provide immediate help to those deprived of shelter and food after the passage of the storm, as well as to treat health problems. It works in coordination and complements the efforts of federal agencies addressing the emergency situation in the aftermath of María, such as the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
It also seeks to collaborate with other nonprofits that focus on providing basic needs to the affected population, assisting small businesses with financial support, to achieve their speedy recovery and provide education on the availability of federal assistance to businesses and the community in general, including how to file claims with federal entities.
“We want to thank the commitment of private industry leaders who resolutely and unconditionally provided financial support since [Unidos por Puerto RIco’s] inception. We recognize the tireless work of the first lady and her work group, which shaped this initiative and that, in just one month after its creation, has reached achievements that surpass all expectations, even under the circumstances that Puerto Rico is going through,” said the nonprofit’s chairman, Aurelio Alemán, who is also chairman and CEO of FirstBank.
Alemán also listed the nonprofit’s achievements to date, among which are coordinating the distribution of donations, including the pooling, registration and classification of more than 800,000 pounds of donated food, clothing and other of basic relief items.
The organization also implemented a plan comprising multiple donation alternatives, including direct deposit and fund transfers that Alemán said had a “massive public response.”
“To date, we have processed more than 125 donations, reaching $11 million. These contributions or donations have been received, not only from Puerto Rico, but from all parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain and Mexico,” the chairman said, adding that the association will expand its reach via other types of contributions.
“The organization has made commitments that are in the process of being formalized, such as support for the Food Bank, to expand its social assistance services, a contribution to Iniciativa Comunitaria to help the homeless; support for the collection center will also be provided, in terms of purchasing items for the expansion of the service centers project, using Stop & Go locations, where access to hot meals, electricity, access to Wi-Fi and entertainment will be provided to children of these communities,” he said.
Alemán said the entity’s board assigned a $1 million budget in vouchers to help people with needs who are still in shelters, as well as a continuing effort to establish a mechanism for granting funds and helping small operations resume their business as soon as possible.
Those interested in contributing or submitting proposals to the organization may visit unidosporpuertorico.com. All requests will be evaluated and approved every week by members of the board of the private sector.
“We urge all nonprofit organizations aligned with our objectives and work plan, to submit their proposals to be able to continue helping our citizens,” Alemán added.