Puerto Rico Gov Meets With White House Special Representative for Disaster Recovery
Receives HUD Agreement on $8.2 Billion in Aid
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced met Tuesday with U.S. Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown, who was appointed as the White House’s Special Representative for Puerto Rico’s Disaster Recovery to oversee reconstruction efforts on the island.
Alongside the heads of agencies in charge of these efforts, Vázquez said the meeting involved discussing the emergency management during the series of earthquakes that have been occurring in the southwestern part of the island, as well as the government’s coordination with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to carry out the work needed, including the projects that have already been presented after hurricanes Irma and Maria, which struck two years ago.
The governor said that “Puerto Rico can now expect a better response in order to have a strong and resilient reconstruction,” according to a release issued by her office, which adds that Vázquez said Brown’s appointment represents “a step forward due to the good communication that has been established to gain access” to the funds.
“We had a very productive meeting with a new environment of trust, collaboration and cooperation,” Brown was quoted as saying.
On Monday, Garced received a federal aid agreement for the disbursement of $8.2 billion for the island’s recovery from Hurricane Maria. Another $8.2 billion, also in Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program funds, is being discussed for future disbursement.
The federal government has approved $20 billion in CDBG-DR funding to aid in the island’s reconstruction after Maria, of which $1.5 billion have been made available, Bond Buyer reports.
The new agreement, which was given to the governor by U.S. Housing and Urban Development official Brian Montgomery, includes provisions that the island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board “must approve funded projects, the local government must take steps to improve the registration of property, and the local government must repeal a recently passed law that construction workers on federally funded projects would be paid at least $ 15 per hour,” the investor publication wrote.
Brown will coordinate U.S. Government efforts to build the infrastructure and resiliency of Puerto Rico, according to the White House, whose other components, including the Office of Legislative Affairs, Office of Intergovernmental Affairs, and Office of Management and Budget will be part of the efforts.
Amid criticism that the local and federal government response has been slow, the Associated Press reports, Brown said the “reputation seems to lag the reality. The reality is improving,” adding that he believes Trump “will be convinced that federal money and federal efforts is being spent wisely here.”
Brown had met with Vázquez on Feb. 5, along with Puerto Rico’s congressional representative, Jenniffer González Colón to discuss the his new role.
Before joining the White House in July as the Homeland Security and Counterterrorism Advisor,Brown was the commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District headquartered in Miami, where he was responsible for all Coast Guard operations in the Southeast United States and the Caribbean Basin.
Brown’s first duty station in the Coast Guard was in San Juan, and he has served more than half of his 34-year service in the Caribbean. Originally from Somers, New York, Brown is a graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. He also earned a master’s degree in chemistry from the University of Miami and a law degree from the University of Connecticut.