Sunday, May 26, 2019

Puerto Rico Churches Given More Time to Make FEMA Requests

By on April 18, 2019

Deadline Extended to May 17; Effort Coordinated Among COR3, FEMA and Faith-Based Offices in La Fortaleza, White House

Editor’s note: The following was first published in the April 18-24, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced last week that it has reopened the period for houses of worship and churches to submit public assistance requests. The decision comes after the Government of Puerto Rico asked to extend this period, with the effort being coordinated between the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction & Resiliency (COR3) and FEMA, along with the Third Sector & Faith-Based Office and its alliance with the White House’s Office of Faith & Opportunity Initiatives.

On Feb. 12, a letter signed by COR3’s executive director, Omar J. Marrero, was sent to FEMA Puerto Rico officials, requesting extension of the period to file public assistance petitions for houses of worship and churches, known in FEMA as PNPs-HOWs. Last week, Marrero confirmed that houses of worship and churches have until May 17, 2019, to request public assistance and submit all required documentation to complete the process.

“To achieve this, we will have a team solely dedicated to dealing with these cases, with the urgency they deserve, and we encourage these entities to contact us so we can help guide them through this process,” Marrero said.

“FEMA’s help to repair damaged houses of worship and churches is part of our long-term commitment to comprehensively support the island’s recovery,” said Justo “Tito” Hernández, acting director of FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division. “We’ll be here as long as it takes to make sure all eligible facilities, including houses of worship, receive the maximum amount federal laws allow.”

The officials explained that once all requested documents have been completed, they should be sent via email to info@cor3.pr.gov and an email will be sent confirming receipt. Once reviewed, if any document is missing, the person will be immediately informed to take appropriate action.

On or before May 17, 2019, COR3 will review the documentation and ensure the applicant submits all necessary paperwork for FEMA to make an eligibility determination.

Marrero pointed out that this announcement reflects the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s commitment to protect such a vital sector and ensure it fully recovers in a resilient manner.

“The alliance that has been created along with the team of Faith & Opportunity Initiatives of the White House has given us a great opportunity to offer benefits to this community. This team, through its visits to Puerto Rico, knows firsthand the needs of the people of Puerto Rico, as well as their organizations and churches. We are lucky to have great allies advocating for Puerto Rico,” Héctor A. Albertorio, executive director of the Third Sector & Faith-Based Office in La Fortaleza, said.

“We are pleased that FEMA has accepted our request for a time extension in the filing of requests for public assistance for the benefit of these organizations, so they can continue to serve our communities and our people,” Rosselló said.

All organizations interested in completing the application or to receive additional information may visit the documents section at www.recovery.pr.

The announcement was made only weeks after Marrero, along with FEMA’s interim director, Mike Byrne, announced an agreement that would transfer to the local government the responsibility of disbursing recovery funds.

At the time, Marrero said the agreement was established after an intense effort from COR3 to work together with FEMA in the development and establishment of policies, fiscal procedures and internal controls to ensure compliance in the evaluation and approval of disbursements, also known as “Process 270.”

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