Mayors apprise Puerto Rico fiscal board of post-disaster reconstruction issues
Present case of $44 million not reimbursed by FEMA
By Gabriel Orlando Santos Ortega
SAN JUAN – The data the Puerto Rico Mayors Association has collected two years after Hurricane Maria struck, including towns’ reconstruction difficulties caused by the inefficiency of the central government, were shared with the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board, which requested the information, the president of the municipal group, José “Joe” Román Abreu, announced Wednesday.
“A board liaison official received the information and contacted us to better understand our assertions and evaluate how this critical issue could be addressed for the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico. The closest officials to Congress and the White House are Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and the board, who are called to address the needs Puerto Ricans experience in the wake of Hurricane Maria,” Román said in a statement.
The also mayor of San Lorenzo added that a group of mayors presented data collected in 24 of the 45 municipalities led by the Popular Democratic Party mayors—who make up the Mayors Association—as a sample of the situation in these towns.
He indicated that the mayors of Villalba, Guayanilla, Salinas and Yabucoa presented the case of the reimbursement owed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in categories A and B, a which total $43,945,141 in work done to remove debris and emergency measures. In categories C through G, there are a total of 5,140 projects claimed, specifically roads and bridges, public buildings, parks and recreational facilities.
“Of that total, there are only 19 signed projects, which represents 1 percent of them to be able to start construction work. Three projects have received funds. This is less than 1 percent of the total,” Román Abreu explained.
The mayors insisted that two years after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico is more vulnerable in terms of infrastructure and housing because it has not been able to start the reconstruction phase for bridges, roads, preventing landslides and public facilities, which are essential to guarantee the safety of citizenry.
The mayors also alleged a lack of trained and needed personnel to implement the established policies, at FEMA and the government’s Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), particularly the lack of consistency in the documentation process for validation.