Foot Soldiers Wanted in Rebuilding Battle
Alternatives Sought for Construction Worker Shortage
Puerto Rico’s construction industry, along with the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, is scrambling for solutions to a labor shortage that could seriously affect the completion of projects that are part of the massive, federally funded effort to rebuild and fortify hurricane-damaged housing and critical infrastructure.
A 2019 brief issued by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on “recovery job demand creation” identified the construction industry as “the area of biggest need,” projecting that the island would need 89,280 construction workers to meet the demand of an estimated $6 billion a year in hurricane recovery projects. The brief said that there were only 21,000 construction workers at the time. Although the level of projected construction work—which did not include rebuilding projects for the 2020 earthquakes part of the island—has yet to reach the Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) of Puerto Rico, Manuel Laboy, recently told reporters that last year’s disbursement of $358 million in federal funds for hurricane, earthquake and COVID-19 recovery e orts will climb to $1 billion this year.
Between January and June this year, COR3 had already managed to disburse $462 million in disaster funding. Citing federal statistics, Laboy said that Puerto Rico’s construction sector has 32,000 workers, “without counting the activity that is not registered in the building projects that are expected, the island’s construction industry would need an additional 40,000 employees over the current 32,000.
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