Puerto Rico Council on Developmental Disabilities placed into receivership

Aafaf Director Christian Sobrino, the governor’s representative to the fiscal oversight board for Puerto Rico (CB file photo)

2nd entity to nearly see federal funding halt

SAN JUAN – The Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority (AAFAF by its Spanish acronym) recently declared a receivership for the Council on Developmental Disabilities (CDD), an entity attached to the Puerto Rico Planning Board (PRPB).

The action, the fiscal agency said, is intended correct “serious deficiencies identified by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which jeopardize approximately $2.5 million in federal grants intended for the creation of programs that benefit Puerto Rico’s population with developmental disabilities.”

The CDD was placed in the Tier 3 High Risk category on Jan. 17, 2013. Since then, the federal government has requested corrective action plans and provided technical assistance; however, the CDD has not properly addressed the findings.

On Feb. 4, the CDD received a final warning that the federal grant allocation could be terminated. The noncompliance is grounded mainly on improper fiscal and program management. The findings include, among others, improper management and spending of federal funds, and administrative expenses in excess of those authorized by federal rules.

AAFAF Executive Director Christian Sobrino said the PRPB also issued similar findings after it conducted an audit of the fiscal operations of the CDD. The audit revealed multiple irregularities, such as the creation of projects beyond the period established by the federal government, lack of activities to make public the availability of funds, and delay in the proposal approval processes.

“This background of noncompliance with fiscal and program requirements has limited the creation of projects for the benefit persons with developmental disabilities and their families,” an Aafaf release reads.

The president of the PRPB, María Gordillo said she will continue fulfilling her responsibilities to guarantee that the funds are used appropriately, following state and federal regulations, according to the release.

“AAFAF will immediately address the findings of the Federal Government. We will submit a Corrective Action Plan to correct the deficiencies, and fulfill the promise of the Administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló to restore the services our people deserve. We will not allow the loss of federal funds due to poor management of the administrative structure of this Council. We are going to fix this once and for all.” Sobrino Vega said.

The CDD is the second entity placed into receivership by AAFAF, which said it was forced to place the administrative component of the Persons with Disability Advocacy Office (PDAO) into receivership on March 26 due to similar deficiencies pointed out by HHS.

“Since AAFAF’s intervention, direct and effective communications have been established with the Federal Government, and a Corrective Action Plan addressing the findings has been successfully approved. Thus AAFAF avoided a process that would have terminated federal funding for the PDAO, guaranteeing the benefits and continuity of services to persons with disabilities.”

The receivership of the CDD will remain in effect until the executive director of AAFAF certifies that the noncompliance and deficiencies have been corrected.

Oral surgeons to receive higher rates under Puerto Rico health plan

To prevent outmigration despite ‘unequal’ federal funding, Gov. Rosselló says

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced Tuesday that starting July 1, oral surgeons will see an increase in their reimbursement rates under the government’s Vital healthcare plan.

“We are proud of announcing that we have started to do justice to our medical dentists; this way, we guarantee that a greater number of them remain in Puerto Rico and that Vital Plan beneficiaries receive the best dental care,” the governor said in a statement.

The new rate card for oral and maxillofacial surgeons follows an effort between the Health Insurance Administration (ASES by its Spanish acronym), the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) Medical Sciences School of Dental Medicine and the Colegio de Cirujanos Dentistas (Dental Surgeons Society), and “will serve as a reference” for hiring these professionals with insurance companies that form part of the Vital Plan. 

ASES Executive Director Ángela Ávila noted that “after the official Vital Plan dental services card was officially presented in April, we took on the task of identifying the funds needed to make this effort a reality,” and that “acknowledging the need to update payments for dental care services in the rate card, some $17 million have been budgeted for the adjustment.”

These funds guarantee the recommended rates through fiscal year 2020.

The government said this is the first time ASES has taken measures to establish a dental coverage rate for the about 1.2 million people under the public health plan.

“For the first time, since the government health plan was established, an increase in rates for dentists has been achieved,” Ávila said.

“Some 25 years ago, then Gov. Pedro Rosselló [González] established the Health Reform; today, for the first time, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló achieved increasing the rates for dentists,” Ávila said. “This way we do justice, protecting the profession and guaranteeing more patient access.”

Rosselló acknowledged that there are challenges due to the “unequal” federal fund allocation Puerto Rico receives to finance the health system.

“We have made a commitment to make way for all the necessary steps so that the resources are assigned to us and provide better payment conditions to physicians, and this way stopping the sustained exodus of health professionals, which undermines the stability of the system,” Rosselló said.

Puerto Rico EDB receives $1 million from USDA Rural Development

Josué Rivera, state director, USDA Rural Development office in Puerto Rico; and Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank President Luis Burdiel (Courtesy)

Economic Development Bank seeking applications for loans of up to $250,000

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Economic Development Bank (EDB) President Luis Burdiel announced Monday the approval of $1 million to help create jobs in the island’s rural areas.

The funds were approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Rural Development Office to help the EDB invest in the creation of jobs.

“This capital injection will be destined to provide loans for small and midsize businesses [Pymes by its Spanish acronym] in rural areas…,” Burdiel said in a statement. “This will allow for us to continue taking affirmative steps to advance the economic development of our island with our Pymes [, the] entities that are mostly responsible for the creation of new jobs, in tune with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares’s vision.”

Burdiel thanked Josué Rivera, state director of the Rural Development office in Puerto Rico, for his support in the initiative.

The funds granted to the EDB come from the Intermediary and Relending Program, through which money is lent, at a 1 percent interest rate, to either government or private nonprofit entities, which in turn provide financing to businesses in underserved areas or isolated communities.

Under the program, the EDB manages a revolving fund that allows the institution to reuse the money to grant new loans once the funds are repaid by their end-recipients.

Small-business owners who qualify may receive loans of up to $250,000, or 75 percent of their total project cost.

Projects in rural areas of Puerto Rico are eligible for financing, a designation that includes nearly every island municipality, except Bayamón, Caguas, San Juan, Guaynabo, Cataño, Trujillo Alto, Carolina, Ponce and Mayagüez.

Burdiel added that agricultural manufacturers and agro-industrial projects are eligible to apply for the financing. The EDB chief urged companies in eligible municipalities to submit proposals for evaluation.

“Our team for new businesses, together with the loan officers, is ready to apply their extensive expertise to promptly process the projects presented,” he said.

Puerto Rico Churches Given More Time to Make FEMA Requests

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.”

Puerto Rico CPA Society to hold gov’t accounting, auditing forum

(CB file)

April 25 conference will focus on federal disaster recovery funds

SAN JUAN – The Association of Certified Public Accountants of Puerto Rico announced it will be holding its 15th Forum on Accounting and Auditing of Governmental Entities at the InterContinental San Juan hotel April 25.

During the forum, which is geared toward both public and private employees, issues related to the process of Puerto Rico’s restructuring after hurricanes Irma and María will be discussed, as well as the island’s fiscal situation. In addition, information on recent accounting and auditing developments, among other technical issues, will be offered.

“The current situation of our island requires a discussion of issues related to structures, use of funds and application of government accounting standards that did not exist before. This forum is aimed at examining the most relevant elements of the Fiscal Plan and the Liquidity Plan of Puerto Rico. It will also present issues of responsibility and factors that must be considered during the audit processes of the federal funds assigned for recovery,” society President Cecilia C. Colón Ouslán said in the announcing release.

Participants will receive guidance on the administration and auditing of funds granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), and the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG – DR) Program. Likewise, the most recent provisions regarding Generally Accepted Government Auditing Standards, also known as the Yellow Book, will be explained.

Among the speakers for the event are the executive director of the Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, Christian Sobrino; Treasury Secretary Raúl Maldonado; the executive director of COR3, Omar Marrero; and Timothy Hurley Timothy Hurley, CEO of Deloitte Transactions and Business Analytics LLP.

The forum will take place from 8:45 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. To reserve and obtain more information, visit www.colegiocpa.com.

Senate Democrats block disaster aid measure


Puerto Rico gov, congresswoman reject differences on federal disaster aid bills

SAN JUAN – Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Gov. Ricardo Rosselló rejected Monday the controversy between the two over the bills in U.S. Congress that would allocate disaster funds for Puerto Rico.

However, Senate Democrats blocked the Republican disaster aid bill because it did not help Puerto Rico enough they said. The measure, which differs from the bill passed in the House in January, was reportedly changed after President Trump expressed hesitance toward approving further disaster funding for the island.

“The Democrats today killed a Bill that would have provided great relief to Farmers and yet more money to Puerto Rico despite the fact that Puerto Rico has already been scheduled to receive more hurricane relief funding than any ‘place’ in history,” Trump tweeted Monday.

“The people of Puerto Rico are GREAT, but the politicians are incompetent or corrupt,” his post reads. “Puerto Rico got far more money than Texas & Florida combined, yet their government can’t do anything right, the place is a mess – nothing works. FEMA & the Military worked emergency miracles, but politicians like the crazed and incompetent Mayor of San Juan have done such a poor job of bringing the Island back to health.”

Puerto Rico’s congresswoman González backed the Senate measure, while the island’s governor the already passed House bill.

“At the end of the day, what we want is for the money for Puerto Rico to appear. What worries me most is that this could have been approved in January; it could have been approved in February and we are already in April and a reduction in PAN (nutritional assistance program) benefits has already begun. That is why I believe the Senate bill forces both delegations, Democrats and Republicans, to work out the details in the different parts. The governor and I want the most funds possible for Puerto Rico,” González Colón said at a press conference, concluding her remarks with a Spanish expression that means they obviously are both working toward that end.

When asked what their plan was, Rosselló said, “The strategy is to negotiate with all the parties [involved] to get the greatest number of resources for Puerto Rico. If the resident commissioner and I were to draw a diagram here, we’d be putting ourselves at a disadvantage for what we are negotiating there. So our goal is to get the most resources.”

The U.S. House of Representatives has passed H.R. 268, which includes the allocation of some $14.2 billion in disaster aid for several states but the Senate voted Monday afternoon on a measure authored by Sens. Rick Scott, Marco Rubio and Sonny Perdue, which only included $600 million for Puerto Rico’s nutrition assistance program, which faces a funding cliff in September.

Democrats blocked passage because they want to “add almost $700 million more to unlock further disaster aid for Puerto Rico and several states, including help to rebuild badly damaged water systems. Democrats are also seeking to force the administration to release billions of dollars in rebuilding funds that have already been approved,” according to the Associated Press.

On Sunday, Rosselló urged Congress to consider voting on H.R. 268, “as already approved in the House,” because, he said it “provides much-needed support to Puerto Rico to address infrastructure, education, nutritional and housing needs.”

He issued a statement saying: “Puerto Rico must receive the federal resources necessary to sufficiently complete our recovery and reconstruction in a timely manner, and to assist the more than 3 million U.S. citizens who live on the island and are working each and every day to recover” from Hurricane Maria, which he said “depleted our resources.”

The governor stressed: “Currently, we simply do not have the funds to cover cost-share requirements set forth – unilaterally and unnecessarily – by FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency]. What we are requesting is the same treatment other jurisdictions have received from the federal government: For the federal government to cover 100 percent of the cost-share requirements for emergency work is extremely helpful and will speed up the recovery’s current pace. We reiterate that we are not setting new precedent as this help has been extended to other jurisdictions in the past. We merely request equal treatment.”

The governor said he was also asking for $500 million to continue repairing the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (Prasa) infrastructure to make it more resilient in the event of another disaster.

“Moreover, the Caño Martín Peña, an underserved community in San Juan, is in desperate need of environmental restoration. To put an end to the constant flooding and devastating living conditions endured by it’s over 23,000 residents, as well as hundreds of thousands in its vicinity, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requires $25 million, which H.R. 268 provides. As we rebuild our electric grid, we are asking for $15 million in Department of Energy technical assistance so that we can rebuild our electric grid stronger, better and more resilient than before.”

The amendment being considered by the Senate, he said, “falls short of addressing the majority of our most pressing needs.”

–CB’s María Miranda and CyberNews contributed to this report

Trump’s alleged reluctance on Puerto Rico disaster funding complicates passage of U.S. aid bill

Puerto Rico gov implores U.S. Senate to pass supplemental appropriations bill

Trump’s reluctant dismissals could alter White House

FEMA Gives Puerto Rico authority to disburse recovery funds

FEMA interim Director Mike Byrne and COR3 Executive Director Omar Marrero

Shows island is capable of managing its recovery with same seriousness as any state, official says

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the March 28 – April 3, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

Despite public differences between Gov. Ricardo Rosselló’s administration and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) over the management of public funds, the executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction & Resiliency (COR3), Omar Marrero, and FEMA’s interim director, Mike Byrne, announced an agreement that would transfer to the local government the responsibility of disbursing recovery funds.

Marrero said the agreement came after an intense effort by 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.”

“Our goal is to obtain the disbursement of federal funds in an efficient and effective manner as possible with the goal of achieving progress and the vision of recovery established by Gov. Ricardo Rosselló,” indicated Marrero, who said the established methods and procedures to manage, internally control and hasten the disbursement of funds “will show that Puerto Rico is in a better position to manage its own recovery.”

The executive director of COR3 insisted the agreement shows the government of Puerto Rico is capable of managing its own recovery with the same seriousness and responsibility as any other state. Marrero indicated that control of the disbursement process is limited to funds managed by FEMA and not to other monies, such as Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, which are administered by the federal Department of Housing.

Meanwhile, Byrne praised the local government’s ability to manage the funds and was pleased the island can finally move on to the next phase of its recovery.

“I think it is important to recognize that we have always been in sync in terms of wanting to make sure the tax dollars and grants that we are authorizing are used in the most responsible way. That has always been the case,” Byrne said. “What’s exciting about this juncture is that the capability is in place, the confidence is in place to have Puerto Rico manage that process and go forward.

“When you think about the scope and scale, we’ve been dealing with unprecedented amounts of money and will continue to do so going into the future. And it will be many, many years that Puerto Rico is going to be managing this process, and we have full faith and confidence that they are going to do the right thing and that we again, together, can stand and tell all the taxpayers in America that this money, it’s been spent properly and wisely,” Byrne said.

Experts hired

The officials said that to ensure the process is efficiently and transparently carried out, and with full protection and compliance with applicable federal regulations, COR3 hired experts to establish, in collaboration with FEMA, the necessary protocols to take over the task of managing FEMA funds. Marrero did not indicate how much of the contract is awarded for this function.

Asked what could have caused the White House’s and certain sectors of Congress to change their position—who had showed great skepticism in transferring the disbursement of recovery funds to the Rosselló administration after several scandals involving allegedly illegal contracts—Byrne said the establishment of new controls provides greater confidence.

“It’s not so much that anything has changed. What happened is that from the outset we, together, have put in place controls so we have a high degree of confidence that the money is being spent on what it was intended to be spent on,” Byrne said.

“These grants…are going to be rebuilding the infrastructure of the commonwealth, so there is nothing simple about it, or the work of these two agencies [FEMA and COR3],” he added. “We have a high degree of confidence now that the procedures we have in place will do exactly that, and we welcome any scrutiny of what they wanted in place.” Echoing Gov. Rosselló’s expression, Byrne added, “This is going to be the most transparent recovery in history.”

“There will be no tolerance, no suspicion of fraud, abuse, waste or negligence in the handling and disbursement of these federal funds,” Marrero assured, since the COR3 office has established a confidential line as an independent and impartial mechanism to report any illegal act regarding these funds. People wishing to make a report can call, free of charge and in total confidentiality, 1-888-876-7548 or access transparencypr.ethicsglobal.com.

The announcement to transfer responsibilities came only weeks after former Revitalization Coordinator Noel Zamot made serious allegations involving the supposed illegal manipulation in the evaluation of multimillion-dollar investment projects under Title V of Promesa Act.

University of Puerto Rico Initiative Seeks R&D Funds on Capitol Hill

New office won’t be limited to STEM research, will seek grants for humanities, law and soft sciences

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the March 28 – April 3, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

In mid-February, the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) and Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) announced an agreement to recruit a person to the PRFAA offices in Washington to help attract federal research funding to the university.

At the most recent meeting of the University Board, UPR President Jorge Haddock Acevedo informed the governing body that the person who would serve under the agreement, which has a budget of $40,000 for the remainder of the fiscal year, would be Elsa Luis.

This would be the second time the president has mentioned Luis as the new liaison between the UPR and the federal government regarding research funding. The first time was when Haddock mentioned Luis’ name during the March meeting of the UPR Governing Board, during which he also generally defended the new position by arguing, “The University of Puerto Rico is going to have this person, [just as] the majority of the universities of the nation have assigned [someone] in Washington.”

How does it compare?

While offices of federal relations, government affairs and other variations on that title are not uncommon at institutions of higher learning in the States, it is worth pointing out that stateside they have broader missions than the agreement between PRFAA and the UPR, which focuses on research funding. The key difference is that the UPR Office of Federal & External Affairs falls under the mandate of the Vice Presidency of Research & Innovation, while federal affairs offices at other universities generally have had a place in the bureaucratic structure that allows them a greater range of influence.

Indeed, when looking at top-ranking public universities, with the exception of military institutions, all have government relations offices for each individual campus, or from their central administration or both. However, these offices serve as advocates for the universities in the federal arena as well as with the local or state government.

For example, the website of University of Massachusetts (UMass), which was Haddock’s previous workplace, indicates “the Government Affairs Department of [the UMass] President’s Office is responsible for monitoring all legislation that affects all aspects of the university, including but not limited to funding for the university and other legislative and policy issues that arrive before the city, state and federal government.”

In the case of the Office of Governmental Relations (ORG) in the University of Illinois System (UI), its 2018 annual report shows the ORG has been actively monitoring the state’s budget process and legislation on financial aid, admissions and pensions, among other matters. The information on the tracked legislation in the report includes its current status as well as UI’s position on each bill.

The ORG report also shows the office has worked to promote various activities in Washington, D.C., for UI members to advocate for or promote the university.

“The ORG made the most out of the time Congress was in session by getting UI System leaders and faculty in front of the Illinois delegation to advance our legislative priorities and interests. The ORG planned several UI System events in Washington and arranged for our experts to participate in opportunities to showcase our strengths and assets,” the report reads.

These activities include a seminar, panel participation and securing participation of six professors to testify in meetings of several committees.

For its part, the University of California (UC) has two offices, State Governmental Relations and Federal Governmental Relations, with the latter in Washington, D.C.

The UC federal affairs office website indicates that the UC is the “the largest public research institution in the world,” but the monthly report also tracks other budget discussions and allocations under “Congressional Legislative Activity” and “Policy & Regulatory Update.”

Private universities also have federal affairs offices that touch on various topics, including but not limited to research.

For example, Harvard University, which has an Office of Federal Relations, has a “congressional to-do list,” and identifies the issues under its purview to “include student financial aid, admissions, scientific research and other policies at the intersection of government and education.” The university’s office has a presence in Cambridge, Mass., and Washington, D.C.

By contrast, the UPR-PRFAA agreement identifies the qualities for the person to hire as a “specialist in concessions of federal funds, who works in planning and advising the agency through analysis, evaluation, interpretation, research and training on the development and presentation of proposals to obtain federal funds that benefit the University of Puerto Rico.”

A federal liaison office for the UPR, which would resemble other universities, could include the tasks of following other budget allocations or funding discussions that are not directly related to preparing proposals. For example, they could secure the participation of UPR representatives to testify at Energy & Natural Resources committee meetings that discuss the impact of the Financial Oversight & Management Board measures. That office would also be tasked with monitoring legislative and executive actions that are not strictly related to funding for higher education, including changes for higher education being proposed by President Trump.

In this particular case

In the UPR president’s March 6 work plan, Haddock states that one of his pillars is “New Revenue,” which includes “research funds” as part of the plan’s five funding sources.

“At any university institution, whether public or private, capturing external funds is a vital priority. Our work plan has established as a priority the strengthening of research, efforts toward the collection of external funds and the recovery of funds from projects subsidized by federal agencies,” says the plan’s introduction to “External Funding for Research.”

Carmen Bachier, vice president of External Research Funds, who will be a contact person between the UPR and the new PRFAA office, explained that the UPR is already considered a “high research activity” institution, and the goal is to maximize research funding opportunities by utilizing a resource in Washington.

“We’ve been very effective in the preparation of proposals, actually. That is why we are classified as a ‘high research institution.’ So, we are very well-positioned when it comes to federal proposals, but we need to maximize and increase [external] funds,” Bachier said.

“Right now, we are working with proposals, but this person, who is in Washington, has the contacts with the agencies, has the access to the officials, and is going to be evaluating the programs that right now have a priority to receive our proposal,” Bachier said.

As for the person expected to finalize the contract—Elsa Luis, of Elsa Luis & Associates LLC—the UPR would be its largest client, from the academic research institution realm. The other academic clients mentioned on her website are Universidad Ana G. Méndez, EDP College and the Initiative Independent Schooling of P.R.

Luis & Associates has an office in Virginia and, according to her website, specializes “on providing capacity building, grant writing and partnership development services.”

Bachier pointed out that for this legislative initiative, which is part of a group of measures to increase external funding for the UPR, several measures will be put in place. She explained that the goal is to increase overall research funding by 20 percent in one year but would also measure proposed amounts from any campus or professor.

The vice president pointed out that when preparing and competing for proposals, the campuses have different levels of activity. Therefore, they will be monitoring if campuses or professors are not only submitting more proposals but also in areas in which they had not previously submitted, including encouraging professors who have not pursued grants or other forms of outside funding.

She added that the office will not be limited to research in science, technology, engineering or math, but will also seek grants for the humanities, law and soft sciences.

Whether the UPR has enough internal resources, such as eligible professors to meet increased research demands, Bachier explained that the UPR’s central administration is collecting information on each campus’ resources and their areas of interest.

Bachier mentioned that part of the initiative is to promote increased participation to attract outside funding, including incentives for professors, which Haddock’s work plan describes as a “reward & recognition” plan that would be organized in collaboration with the vice president of academic affairs.

“We are right now obtaining the information from every campus about what their proposals and strengths are. We want to do mapping or a matching where we can match the research in the strong areas and the strength of the researchers with the opportunities that exist in Washington.”

FEMA approves nearly $195 million in additional grants to Puerto Rico

Includes emergency measure funds for Guaynabo and Housing Dept., debris removal in Dorado and administrative costs of Transportation Dept.

SAN JUAN – The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has awarded $193.6 million in additional funds to Puerto Rico to cover costs related to Hurricane María.

These awards bring the amount of funds obligated under FEMA’s Public Assistance program to $5.6 billion.

The latest grants approved are as follows:

  • Nearly $1.5 million to the Municipality of Guaynabo for emergency protective measures.
  • Nearly $2.5 million to the Municipality of Dorado for debris removal.
  • More than $6.1 million to the Puerto Rico Department of Transportation for direct administrative costs.
  • More than $183.5 million to the Puerto Rico Department of Housing for emergency protective measures.

Emergency protective measures are actions taken to eliminate or lessen immediate threats either to lives, public health or safety, or significant additional damage to public or private property in a cost-effective manner.

FEMA works with Puerto Rico’s Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, or COR3, through the agency’s Public Assistance program to obligate recovery funds to private nonprofit organizations, municipalities and agencies of the Government of Puerto Rico for expenses related to hurricanes Irma and María.

Assistance is available for debris removal, life-saving emergency protective measures and the repair, replacement or restoration of disaster-damaged facilities. The Public Assistance program also encourages protection of these damaged facilities from future events by providing assistance for hazard mitigation measures during the recovery process.

FEMA obligates funding to the applicant for projects through COR3. For applicants to receive the awarded funds, they must provide required documentation to ensure conformity with local and federal requirements.

FEMA sums up Hurricane Maria recovery aid for Puerto Rico

FEMA sums up Hurricane Maria recovery aid for Puerto Rico

Sets the stage for long-term recovery, ‘resiliency through partnership’

SAN JUAN — The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) published a release Wednesday, saying that local government agencies and other federal partners continue supporting the Government of Puerto Rico’s plan for recovery after Hurricane Maria.

“With more than $8.5 billion granted so far for Public Assistance, Individual Assistance and Mitigation grants, the island is better positioned to build back stronger,” the agency said on the year and a half mark since the hurricane’s historical impact on Puerto Rico.

FEMA assured that work on “key infrastructure and lifelines is ongoing, helping the island during its recovery process while also restoring and empowering communities.”

Below are some examples of projects underway for the island’s long-term recovery, as per FEMA’s release:

Restoration of Water Systems

FEMA has awarded approximately $135 million to the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority, or PRASA, for Hurricane María-related expenses. These funds were for debris removal and immediate measures to save lives and protect public health and property.

PRASA has identified over 5,000 facilities to be repaired or rebuilt, making this a massive undertaking.

FEMA is also working on approving roughly $2 million in funds for repair works in Non-PRASA water systems. Roughly 90,000 residents rely on community aqueducts, many of which were severely damaged after the storm.

In the Guayabota community in Yabucoa, located in the eastern part of the island, repairs to broken fences, gates and pipes help ensure residents have access to clean drinking water. Under a mission assignment with the Environmental Protection Agency, community systems like this one are continually assessed and supported and promote the importance of community resiliency.

New Ways to Rebuild

So far, FEMA has disbursed over $745 million for home rental, repairs and replacement costs. But even with several housing programs up and running, and volunteer organizations eager to lend a helping hand, the scarcity and high prices of construction materials delayed the process of getting people back in their homes. More needed to be done.

The Voluntary Agencies Leading and Organizing Repair program, or VALOR, was created for nonprofits to receive materials and equipment to perform minor home repairs. FEMA has provided $12.6 million for home construction materials that volunteer agencies have used to repair 3,300 homes on the island. The successful implementation of this program in Puerto Rico has opened the door for its use in other disasters.

Recovery in the Hands of Every Survivor

Puerto Rico residents, regardless of whether they registered for assistance with FEMA, who still face disaster-related unmet needs have a network of resources to help get them back on their feet. FEMA and the Government of Puerto Rico have established community recovery centers throughout the island as a place where residents have access to federal and local recovery specialists, disaster case managers and volunteer organizations.

FEMA has awarded nearly $70 million for disaster case management in Puerto Rico, providing survivors with a single point of contact to facilitate access to a broad range of resources. There are over 600 disaster case managers available to meet with survivors across the island in community recovery centers.

Over 100,000 people have visited and continue to visit CRCs, helping create more resilient communities and establishing ties with local nonprofits and volunteer organizations.

Repaving the Road to Recovery

FEMA has provided over $54 million in funding to repair hurricane-damaged sites including roads and bridges in Puerto Rico. These sites, owned by the state and municipalities, are under mission assignment with the Eastern Federal Lands Highway Division and include repairs to bridges in Utuado, one of the hardest hit areas on the island.

In collaboration with the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority and Puerto Rico’s Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, or COR3, over 106,000 street lights across the island will be repaired or replaced at an estimated cost of $35 million.

With emergency work complete, permanent work underway and communities coming together to develop innovative solutions tailored to their long-term recovery needs, Puerto Rico will be better positioned to withstand whatever comes next. Recovery is the longest phase of a disaster and FEMA is committed to rebuilding a stronger Puerto Rico.

For more information on the Hurricane María recovery, visit fema.gov/disaster/4339.