Monday, December 11, 2017

Puerto Rico hurricane aid handling eyed by Justice, US Attorney’s Office

By on October 9, 2017

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said he has asked the Justice Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Juan to investigate complaints posted daily on social media alleging that aid to victims of Hurricane María sent to the island’s municipalities is not reaching those who need it.

He added that he also ordered the National Guard to visit municipalities throughout the island to ensure proper and adequate distribution of food provided by both local and federal governments, as well by private donors.

“We have decided to take a series of steps to avoid the mismanagement of food and the disregard of orders that have been issued,” the governor said during his daily briefing regarding recovery efforts. “Also, I asked the federal Attorney’s Office and [Puerto Rico] Justice [Department] to investigate these complaints to see if indeed this is an issue of mismanagement or what’s going, and if something has been carried out incorrectly, to consider all the legal recourses,” he said.  

Roselló said he ordered Treasury agents to visit municipalities and help mayors to properly account for the aid they receive and distribute.

“We want everyone to be able to have a clear picture of the how, when and where of the food and water [distribution] throughout Puerto Rico,” he said.

Local agencies that distribute aid to hurricane victims will be monitored as well.

Rosselló explained that citizens may file complaints for violations of the orders issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs (DACO by its Spanish acronym) on status.pr or by calling 311. He said that to investigate these complaints, additional DACO auditors will be deployed.

Access to medicine

The governor also said the U.S. Health Department authorized access for Puerto Rico to the Emergency Prescription Assistance Program, which will allow people who do not have health insurance to receive medication, treatment and equipment to address their medical conditions. To request access to the program, people should call 855-793-7470.

Outage at Central San Juan

At the conference, the governor confirmed that a fault at substation 6 of the Central San Juan power complex left areas that had regained service in the metropolitan area in the dark again, including the Río Piedras Medical Center and the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport. However, by 10 a.m. the system had begun to recover and customers were slowly getting service restored. Before the substation’s collapse, the percentage of customers with electrical power service was 11%. That percentage dropped to 6.8% after the outage.

“This shows the fragility of our system and our call is that when we are working to re-establish our system in collaboration with the federal government and the private sector, we have to keep in mind that we cannot have the same system. Our system is delicate and will fall again. We have to build a robust new system,” the governor said.

In terms of potable water service, Rosselló said more than 60% of customers of the island’s metropolitan, eastern, and southern areas have service, while the northern and western towns were the most affected. In the western region of the island, only 45% have service and in the north, 23%.

The docks in the Puerto Nuevo area were temporarily closed by the Coast Guard, it was announced without further details regarding the reasons or duration of the closure.

Regarding the short and medium term grants requested of the federal government, Rosselló said the administration is working on presenting the required documentation and estimates receiving some $4.6 billion in aid through se federal programs and $5 billion in aid to provide the necessary liquidity maintain the local government in operation starting in November.

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