Associated General Contractors request hurricane recovery work payment
SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC-PR) said Thursday that the government is delaying paying local contractors who performed emergency work after Hurricane Maria and warned that the issue is already affecting the health of those companies, their capacity to create jobs and the continuity of work on infrastructure reconstruction.
“What company can be more than six months without charging a cent?” Stephen Spears, president of AGC-PR, questioned as he stressed that the local construction industry has been making its human and financial resources available to the local and federal governments toward Puerto Rico’s recovery. However, he said, the delay hinders companies’ ability to participate in the effort, which is the most needed in the island’s history.
In a statement, the AGC-PR called on agency heads to identify and implement measures that lead contractors getting paid. “The cash flow obtained from timely payments will increase our ability to continue creating jobs and economic activity in the effort to build a new and better Puerto Rico,” Spears wrote.
Local contractors, the AGC explained, are crucial for the island’s recovery, as they were the first to respond to the emergency after Hurricane Maria more than seven months ago. The association said that the work local contractors carried out includes debris cleanup and mitigation efforts for damage to bridges and roads, protecting the water and sewage system and providing the initial response to deal with the collapsed electrical and telecommunications infrastructure. They also worked at the shipping ports and airports to reestablish transportation.
“After the storm passed, the local construction industry demonstrated its capacity and availability to assume a leading role in the construction of a new and better Puerto Rico. We cannot allow, now that we have jobs to create jobs and the ability to attract workers who had been forced to emigrate, that the government repeat past behavior and strangle us with the lack of payment,” Spears said, pointing out that off-island companies that have been contracted by the federal and local governments are being paid on time.
Puerto Rico is expected to receive $60 billion to $90 billion in federal funds and insurance claim payments as a result of Maria’s impact on the island, the association said. “In order to maximize the impact of this capital injection, the participation of local companies and labor is essential,” it further assured.
A request for comment on the matter was sent to the governor’s office.