Federal recovery funds to boost Puerto Rico growth to 4.2% in 2020

SAN JUAN – The release of $1.5 billion in Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG – DR) Program funds following Hurricane Maria will boost Puerto Rico’s economy, which should grow 4.2 percent for fiscal year 2020 and remain in positive territory until 2022, according to new estimates by economic research and consulting firm Estudios Técnicos Inc.

“According to the Consolidated Plan of this federal program, about $1 billion of these funds will be destined to the construction and restoration of housing, so we expect that, by the second half of the year, an increase in housing construction investment will be seen, and with it, an increase in cement sales, as well as in construction employment. We also expect increases in the retail sale of construction materials and home supplies,” Estudios Técnicos President Graham Castillo said in a statement.

Graham Castillo Pagán, JD, president and COO of Estudios Técnicos Inc. and its Market Strategies Division (Courtesy)

Castillo indicated that the arrival of these funds gives greater certainty to his firm’s revised economic projections, which point toward an increase in economic activity of 4.2 percent in fiscal 2020 and 2.1 percent in 2021, with a 20.2 percent and 15.2 percent rise in investments those years, respectively.

The positive impact of the federal recovery funds would run through 2022 when it is estimated that growth would be 1.7 percent. For current fiscal 2019, Puerto Rico’s economic growth will be 3.1 percent, according to the firm’s revised estimates.

“We hope that the release of an additional $8 billion will be announced soon, which will improve the economic activity on the Island and the social conditions of low and moderate income people with housing needs resulting from Hurricane Maria. A particularly needy group is the elderly population,” Castillo said.

Castillo emphasized the need for a plan for sustained economic development that incorporates innovative projects in areas of opportunity for Puerto Rico. Estudios Técnicos estimates that among the sectors that are most likely to contribute to the economy are manufacturing; advanced services including technology and health and financial services; as well as agriculture and tourism.

 

HUD approves $1.5 billion in disaster recovery funds for Puerto Rico




Puerto Rico gov’t disagrees with resident commissioner proposal for U.S. recovery czar for the island

SAN JUAN – The administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló does not support Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González’s proposal for the White House to appoint a “czar of recovery” for Puerto Rico.

In a radio interview, Anthony Maceira, the public affairs secretary at the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, said the commonwealth government already has more limitations than other jurisdictions have.

González made the proposal after a meeting with U.S. officials Thursday, including Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is also the acting White House chief of staff, to discuss the pace and delays regarding the disbursement of federal recovery funds for Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane season.

Puerto Rico has not only submitted two recovery plans to U.S. officials but has also established the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, or COR3, to manage incoming federal funds.

In a recent interview with Caribbean Business, COR3’s executive director, Omar Marrero, requested control of the disbursement of federal funds, citing a high level of red tape.

“This is not new, something similar had been discussed in December and we already believe the government of Puerto Rico has greater limitations and controls than what other jurisdictions have,” said Maceira, who is also the executive director of the Ports Authority.

González’s proposal calls for a federal official to coordinate the reconstruction needed in Puerto Rico following the passage of hurricanes Irma and María, due to the delay of federal funds. However, Maceira reiterated that the island has sufficient controls to ensure the proper use of federal funds.

“In the case of FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], we have what is known as S. 270, which is an additional approval that is required before funds can be disbursed and that other jurisdictions do not have,” Maceira added.

The White House, however, already has a draft of the proposal, and the Trump administration’s reported lack of confidence may result in an executive order to name a recovery czar for the island.




U.S. Transportation Department grants $705.7 million in emergency relief for road, bridge repairs

SAN JUAN — The U.S. Department of Transportation’s (USDOT) Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) announced this week more than $705.7 million in Emergency Relief (ER) funds to help 34 states, as well as American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, make repairs to roads and bridges damaged by storms, floods, and other unexpected events.

“The Department is pleased to reimburse states and territories that have made critical repairs to their transportation infrastructure following natural disasters such as wildfires, storms, and floods,” said U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao.

FHWA’s ER program reimburses states, territories, and federal land management agencies for eligible expenses associated with damage from natural disasters or other emergency situations.  The funds help to pay for the reconstruction or replacement of damaged highways and bridges along with the arrangement of detours and replacement of guardrails or other damaged safety devices.

More than a fifth of the total amount provided – about $153 million – will be used to pay for repairs to damage caused by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. There are also funds directed towards other severe weather recovery efforts, including the wildfires in California.

This Emergency Relief funding includes awards of:

  • More than $12.5 million to repair damage to roads and bridges from wildfires in California in 2018.
  • $1.2 million to repair US Highway 550 Red Mountain Pass in southwest Colorado, after it sustained damaged from arock slide.
  • $19.5 million to repair damage caused by Hurricane Michael’s heavy winds and significant storm surge flooding roadways throughout the Panhandle area.

“These funds will help keep our country’s roads and bridges safe and well-maintained in the aftermath of the hurricanes and other severe storms seen in recent years,” said Deputy Federal Highway Administrator Brandye L. Hendrickson.

The video of FHWA’s announcement can be found at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MTfs0B_fyko&feature=youtu.be.

February 5, 2019 Emergency Relief Allocations

State Event Allocation State Totals
Alabama June 22, 2017 Tropical Storm Cindy $2,000,000 $2,000,000
Alaska September 2012 Southcentral flooding $1,539,000 $1,539,000
American Samoa Cyclone Gita 2018 $2,780,947 $2,780,947
Arkansas Federal Lands Midwest floods 2017 (COE) – $5,953,571; 2017 heavy rains and flooding (FS) – $2,705,100 $8,658,671 $8,658,671
California November 2008 Southern California Fires $6,984 $95,914,497
November 2011 Southern California Fires $392,691
December 2014 Statewide Storm Damage $200,000
March 5, 2016 Storms $3,247,837
December 2016 Storms $7,300,536
2017 Winter Storms $35,000,000
Oroville Dam Disaster $2,774,912
December 2017 Thomas, Creek and Rye, and Lilac Fires $25,000,000
March 2018 Storms $7,000,000
July 2017 Detwiler Fire $991,537
July 2018 Monsoon Event $1,500,000
July 2018 Wildfires $12,500,000
California Federal Lands FS Heavy Rainfall, March 5-14, 2016 – $203,872; BOR Jan 2017 Storms and Flooding – $300,000; BOR Jan. 2017 Storms and Flooding – $1,120,253; FS Jan. 2017 Storms and Flooding – $450,000; NPS Jan 2017 Storms and Flooding – $150,000; FS July FS 2018 Carr-Delta-Hirz Complex Fire – $2,306,408; NPS July 2018 Carr-Delta-Hirz Complex Fire – $220,330 $4,750,863 $4,750,863
California total  $100,665,360
Colorado September 11, 2013 Flooding $21,540,623 $22,790,623
US 550 Rockfall $1,250,000
Florida October 10, 2018 Hurricane Michael $19,555,194 $19,555,194
Florida Federal Lands FS – Hurricane Irma 2017 $2,300,000 $2,300,000
Florida total $21,855,194
Georgia October 2018 Hurricane Michael $2,554,139 $2,554,139
Hawaii April 2018 Flooding and Landslides $61,863,074 $78,962,547
May 2018 Kilauea Volcano Eruption, Earthquakes and Lava Flow $8,334,138
August 2018 Hurricane Lane $8,765,335
Hawaii Federal Lands NPS April 2018 Volcanic Eruption $2,456,000 $2,456,000
Hawaii total  $81,418,547
Idaho Federal Lands FS Severe Storms Flooding and Landslides March 2017 through April 2017 – $3,100,000; FS Catastrophic Rock Fall 2017 – $50,000; FS 2017 Severe Storms, Flooding, and Landslides 2017 – $1,508,769; FS Rapid Snowmelt and Flooding April-June 2018 – $100,000 $4,758,769 $4,758,769
Illinois Federal Lands COE Midwest Floods 2017 $119,431 $119,431
Indiana February 2018 Severe Storms and Flooding $6,172,964 $6,172,964
Kansas September 2-12, 2016 Flooding $571,872 $613,239
Early March Wild Fires $41,367
Kentucky February 2018 Severe Storms and Flooding $6,000,000 $6,000,000
Kentucky Federal Lands FS Holiday Storms 2016 $1,604,299 $1,604,299
Kentucky total $7,604,299
Maryland May 2018 Severe Storm/Flooding Event in Washington/Frederick County $950,000 $4,550,000
May – June 2018 Severe Storm/Flooding Statewide $3,600,000
Michigan July 12, 2016 Severe Weather $727,726 $19,927,726
June 17, 2018 Western Upper Peninsula Flooding $19,200,000
Missouri April 28, 2017 Severe Storms and Flooding $352,231 $352,231
Missouri Federal Lands COE, Midwest Floods 2017 – $3,478,195; FS, Spring Flood 2017 – $300,000; NPS Holiday Storms 2017 –  $491,332 $4,269,527 $4,269,527
Missouri total $4,621,758
Montana Spring 2018 Flood Event $17,937,061 $17,937,061
Montana Federal Lands FS Rapid Snowmelt and Flooding April-June 2018 – $200,000; FWS Rapid Snowmelt and Flooding April-June 2018 $100,000 $300,000 $300,000
Montana total $18,237,061
Nevada January 7, 2017 Atmospheric River Storm $1,857,647 $8,137,748
February 2017 Flooding $1,448,817
August 2018 Clark County Flooding $4,831,284
New Hampshire Federal Lands FS October 2017 Flooding $484,845 $484,845
New York WTC Disaster $8,910,888 $8,910,888
North Carolina Federal Lands FS Holiday Storms 2016 – $500,000; FS Heavy Rains and Flooding 2018 – $100,000 $600,000 $600,000
Ohio March 2011 Jefferson County Landslides $5,360,000 $83,306,676
 January 2012 SR 7 Rock Falls $900,000
March 2015 Storms and Landslides $11,927,927
March – April 2017 – Heavy Rainfall and Flooding $2,089,375
February – March 2018 – Heavy Rainfall and Flooding $63,029,374
Oklahoma OK15-1, May 2015 Storms and Flooding $4,502,003 $6,376,087
OK16-1, January 2016 Rain and Flooding $831,658
OK17-1, April 28 – May 2, 2017 Storms and Flooding $1,042,426
Oregon OR15-1, August 2015 Cornet-Windy Ridge and Canyon-Creek Wildfires $1,000,000 $6,837,773
OR16-1, December 2015 Flooding $5,507,000
OR17-1, December 14, 2016 Severe Winter Storm Event $161,686
OR17-2, Jan 11, 2017 Severe Winter Storms $169,087
Oregon Federal Lands BLM December 15,2016-February 2017 Flooding – $3,264,000; FS 2917 Winter Storms – $2,500,000 $5,764,000 $5,764,000
Oregon total $12,601,773
Pennsylvania PA18-1, US Route 30 Landslide, April 7, 2018 $9,727,856 $30,033,856
PA18-2, July 2018 – Heavy Rains and Flooding $6,206,000
PA18-3, August 2018- Heavy Rains and Flooding $14,100,000
Puerto Rico PR17-1, September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria $130,000,000 $130,300,000
PR18-1, March 4-7 Tidal Waves $300,000
Puerto Rico Federal Lands FS – Hurricane Maria 2017 $8,063,760 $8,063,760
Puerto Rico total $138,363,760
South Carolina Hurricane Florence $7,000,000 $7,000,000
Tennessee March 2, 2018 Over Height Load Collision $976,027 $2,063,686
April 27, 2018 Over Height Load Collision $1,087,659
Tennessee Federal Lands FS Heavy Rains and Flooding 2017 – $5,500 $5,500 $5,500
Tennessee total $2,069,186
Texas Texas October 2018 Storms and Flooding $25,000,000 $25,000,000
Texas Federal Lands $393 $393
Texas total $25,000,393
Vermont August 27, 2011 Tropical Storm Irene $717,000 $717,000
Virgin Islands September 2017 Hurricanes Irma and Maria $10,000,000 $10,000,000
Virgin Islands Federal Lands NPS Hurricanes Irma and Maria 2017 $3,000,000 $3,000,000
Virgin Islands total $13,000,000
Virginia Federal Lands FS Heavy Rains and Flooding 2016 – $1,726,109; FS Heavy Rains and Flooding 2017 – 1,677,707; FS Heavy Rains and Flooding – $561,418; $3,965,234 $3,965,234
Washington August 2018 I-90 Overpass Hit Danekas Rd Bridge 90/332 $842,126 $842,126
Washington Federal Lands NPS Heavy Storms 2014 and 2015 – $300,000; NPS Rapid Snowmelt and Flooding 2018 – $200,000 $500,000 $500,000
Washington total $1,342,126
West Virginia February 2018 Flooding $13,900,000 $13,900,000
West Virginia Federal Lands FS October 2017 Flooding – $271,039; and FS June 2016 Flooding Event $1,500,000 $1,771,039 $1,771,039
West Virginia total $15,671,039
Wisconsin June 16 2018 Severe Storms and Flooding $5,339,065 $17,594,565
August 19 Severe Storms and Flooding $11,155,500
August 17 Severe Rains $1,100,000
Wisconsin Federal Lands FS July 2016 Flooding – $1,920,891; FS June 2018 Flooding – $3,823,238 $5,744,129 $5,744,129
Wisconsin total $23,338,694
Wyoming May 24, 2015 Wind River Canyon Flooding $57,327 $12,018,972
May 7, 2016 Flooding $2,738,624
Statewide extraordinary snowpack and runoff $9,223,021
Wyoming Federal Lands FS 2017 June Flooding and Runoff – $44,800; FS February 2018 Earthquakes – $1,892,000 $1,936,800 $1,936,800
Wyoming total $13,955,772
Total $705,742,805

 




Puerto Rico governor to attend State of the Union

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló was invited by Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer of New York to attend President Trump’s State of the Union address.

Rosselló left Monday evening for Washington for the event Tuesday at the House of Representatives. His office, La Fortaleza, said he also intends to meet with members of Congress and the Trump administration to “discuss pressing matters pertaining the approval of emergency aid to meet the funding of several assistance programs of the Island.”

The referred to federal aid includes that for the island’s Nutritional Assistance Program and Medicare and Medicaid funding, “as well as other issues related to the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico following the passage of Hurricane Maria in 2017.”

A spokesman for Rosselló said the governor plans to “warn Trump against ‘draining’ cash earmarked for post-hurricane recovery efforts on the island and use it to fund the construction of a border wall with Mexico,” according to the New York Daily News.

Rosselló will be joined by the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Carlos Mercader, for the meetings.

Puerto Rico Secretary of State Luis Rivera will serve as acting governor until Rosselló returns to the island Thursday.

Puerto Rico gov says he asked Trump if he would use recovery funds for border wall




HUD approves $1.5 billion in disaster recovery funds for Puerto Rico

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló announced that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) authorized the disbursement and use of $1.5 billion approved through the first Action Plan of the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program.

“During the past months both the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, and its secretary, Fernando Gil Enseñat, have worked hard to present the work plans and comply with all the parameters and requirements established by HUD. This notification certainly represents an endorsement of the work we have been doing as an administration. In addition to being a sign of confidence and credibility for the performance we have shown since day one,” Rosselló said in a release issued by his office, La Fortaleza.

Gil Enseñat explained that “three notifications were received from HUD where eighty percent of the funds are released after the state Department of Housing met the conditions established in the ‘Grant Agreement’ signed by the Governor and [HUD Secretary] Ben Carson in the month of September.”

La Fortaleza also said the use of the “Yardi financial program was approved through a non-competitive purchasing process which allows managing funds with an existing system while saving millions of dollars, all while shortening the time to ensure that the money arrives as quickly as possible to the Puerto Rican people.”

In addition, the use of the energy efficient construction standard, or “Green Permit,” was approved, according to the release.

“Since Puerto Rico suffered the worst hurricane in U.S. history, we have embarked on a long road to recovery, working hard and working hand in hand with all sectors to ensure that the island achieves the reconstruction it needs,” the said governor added.

HUD to make $1.5 billion disaster grant available to Puerto Rico




HUD provides $2 billion to thousands of homeless programs

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has awarded approximately $2 billion to renew support to thousands of local homeless assistance programs, including more than $18.1 million to 56 Puerto Rico programs.

HUD’s Continuum of Care grants will provide support to a total 5,800 programs that serve individuals and families experiencing homelessness. The renewal funding is for previously funded programs. The agency said it will announce new project awards, including those with Domestic Violence Bonus funding, at a later date.

The funding supports interventions to assist those experiencing homelessness, “particularly those living in places not meant for habitation, located in sheltering programs or at imminent risk of becoming homeless,” the department said, adding that it serves more than one million people yearly through emergency shelter, transitional, and permanent housing programs.

On Thursday, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón congratulated the recipients of these funds and expressed her “total support for the commendable work they do in providing a roof for people who for various reasons cannot sustain a home.”

See the list of awarded programs in Puerto Rico here.

“At this time of year, thousands of local homeless assistance providers receive federal funding to operate and maintain stable housing for those living in our shelter system and on our streets,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson said in a release issued Saturday. “Renewing these grants will come as a huge relief to these providers, and it will allow them to continue their work to house and serve our most vulnerable neighbors.”

Last December, HUD said, local communities reported homelessness in the U.S. remained largely unchanged in 2018. Based upon those reports, HUD’s 2018 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress found that 552,830 people experienced homelessness on a single night in 2018, an increase of 0.3 percent since 2017.

“The number of families with children experiencing homelessness declined 2.7 percent since 2017 and 29 percent since 2010. Local communities also reported a continuing trend in reducing veteran homelessness across the country – the number of veterans experiencing homelessness fell 5.4 percent since January 2017 and by 49 percent since 2010,” HUD’s release added.

See the awards for all Continuum of Care renewal projects and projects that applied for transition grants.




Puerto Rico gov: We’re prepared legally if Trump diverts funds to border wall

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló Nevares said Monday that legal arguments are ready in case President Trump decides, via emergency declaration, to divert funds assigned for Puerto Rico to continue building the U.S.’s southern barrier with Mexico.

“We have already worked on the legal mechanisms we have amid this scenario. We see it very difficult that money appropriated by Congress, signed by the president of CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) can be used in an emergency order. Likewise are the FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency] funds. There are a series of smaller programs, where the president could possibly declare an emergency and try to take those funds,” Rosselló Nevares said at a press conference.

“If he does that, he would be taking funds from Puerto Rico, California, Texas, Florida. What the president needs to be asked is if he wants to use resources for the recovery of American citizens to build a wall. I think that clearly crystallizes two positions,” he added.

On Friday, Trump agreed to reopen, until Feb. 15, the federal government to continue the discussion on the budget and funds to build the border barrier.

If Congress refuses to provide funds to construct the structure, the president has the power to declare a state of emergency and allocate funds for its construction.

So far, of the budget alternatives that are being discussed, recovery funds for Puerto Rico are not included.




Congresswoman promotes investment opportunities, equality for Puerto Rico while in Florida

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón promoted economic development, investment opportunities and equality for the island to two organizations in Florida.

González Colón was invited to discuss the situation of Puerto Rico by the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida, the first Puerto Rican to address the group. During her speech, she highlighted her work as the first woman to represent Puerto Rico in Congress, and took the opportunity to promote the economic development of the island and advocate for its admission as a state.

The congresswoman provided an update of the impact and effects of Hurricane Maria on the island as well as its recovery progress. She gave an overview of the island’s situation, in terms of population and its economy, as well as federally approved legislation that benefits the island, such as the more than $48 billion allocated for disaster recovery and other programs.

On the other hand, González emphasized the territorial status of Puerto Rico and the limitations that this represents: “Only with statehood can we have a clear path towards full equality for the 3.2 million American citizens living in the island.”

She told the audience that Puerto Ricans voted in favor of statehood for the island twice and spoke about the bipartisan support of her “Puerto Rico Admission Act of 2018.”

Path to statehood bill

In the coming weeks, her office said in a release, the congresswoman will be introducing a new bill to establish “a straightforward path to admit Puerto Rico as a State once the Island’s American citizens reaffirm the territory’s choice of statehood through a plebiscite sponsored by the federal government under Public Law 113-76.”

Gonzalez-Colón also participated in a roundtable with the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Metro Orlando to discuss economic development and investment initiatives as well.

The congresswoman highlighted the inclusion of Puerto Rico in the Opportunity Zones program, which “means that Puerto Rico is not subject to the 25% cap in the number of the census tract areas that may be nominated as O Zones within mainland jurisdictions and the qualifying zones under the program,” her office’s release reads.

At the roundtable, the lawmaker also noted the “achievement of the extension” of the Rum Cover-Over, or the transfer of the liquor’s U.S. excise tax to the treasuries of manufacturing jurisdictions, which “represents a $900 million injection for Puerto Rico and the [U.S.] Virgin Islands,” her office added.




COR3 Director Calls for Control Over Recovery Funds

Omar Marrero, director of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority and the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction & Resiliency (CB/Rafelli González Cotto)

Editor’s note: The following originally appeared in the Jan. 24-30, 2019, issue of Caribbean Business.

Omar Marrero, director of the Puerto Rico Public-Private Partnerships Authority (P3A) and Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction & Resiliency (COR3), insisted he needs control over disbursement of funds for Puerto Rico’s recuperation, saying the excessive bureaucracy imposed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is delaying the island’s recovery from the 2017 hurricanes and commencing as permanent works.

“At COR3, we have engaged in the task to ensure we can take control of a highly bureaucratic process that FEMA itself has not been able to manage efficiently,” he said.

The island not only has no control of the disbursement of funds, but also has no control over the formulation of projects. “As of today, we have zero permanent works obligated for Puerto Rico. That means everything that has been worked on are Categories A and B, which are primarily emergency categories because FEMA has a highly bureaucratic process,” said a visibly frustrated Marrero.

He said FEMA is not giving Puerto Rico the opportunity to help hasten the processes, even though Marrero said he has provided ideas.

Two weeks ago, Marrero was in Washington keeping the different agencies appraised of the island’s recovery efforts but acknowledged that currently, the challenges and conditions imposed by FEMA to disburse funds still persist.

As of this Caribbean Business interview with Marrero, only 45 percent of public assistance funds, which are used to repair public facilities damaged by Hurricane Maria, have been disbursed. “Because those funds have not been disbursed at the pace we have requested since the first day, certainly, the recuperation process has been slow,” he said.

Contrary to other U.S. jurisdictions, Puerto Rico has no control over the reimbursement process because it is totally in FEMA’s hands. Currently, mayors have complained that two years after Hurricane Maria, they are waiting for the government to reimburse them for what they paid to make repairs after the storm, hurting not only municipal coffers but also private companies.

In an effort to help gain the U.S. government’s trust, the administration of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló created COR3, which not only relies on “experts on disaster” but has a transparency portal of the federal funds that have been disbursed. The island completed two types of reconstruction plans. “We have kept the federal government abreast of what we have done, and with all due modesty, we have done a great job. But at the end of the day, we need to take over control of the process. It is the only way we can hasten the disbursements,” Marrero said.

Limited control

President Donald Trump recently accused the local government of using federal funds to pay debt in violation of federal law. Marrero said his remarks are lamentable and based on wrong premises. He said using federal disaster funds to pay debt is a violation of the Stafford Act. “Also, when you look at Puerto Rico, we don’t have control of the funds. Therefore, anyone who dares to say that Puerto Rico has wasted the funds and used the funds for something not authorized, does not know what he is saying,” he said.

The process to obtain federal funds is highly bureaucratic and consists of at least 10 steps, of which COR3 has only control of one. “I only control the disbursement,” he said.

For instance, if an agency seeks reimbursement for a $1 million repair, Marrero said the agency has to submit a request for investment to COR3 along with required documentation. COR3 then submits the request to FEMA, which does an initial review, examines whether any mitigation measures can be applied, and then puts it through an environmental preservation review and then an insurance review. The application is then returned to COR3 for review. “I usually review it in a day,” he said. The request is then submitted to FEMA again for a final review.

If the request for reimbursement is for more than $1 million, it has to go to an office in Washington, D.C. If it is more than $20 million, it has to go to another office in D.C. Only then is the money awarded.

However, the process does not end there. “That does not mean the funds are put in an account. I only get a notification that says ‘award,’” he said.

The request then has to go through what he called “the 270 process,” which consists of seven other steps in which COR3 must also show need. The process was adopted in November 2017 by the United States because Puerto Rico was a “high-risk jurisdiction.”

The 270 process requires the request to be sent to a Fiscal Transparency Group and FEMA confirms the funds can be disbursed.

“Once the money is put in our account, in less than a day, I disburse the money,” he said. “So, anyone who says we have misused a single dollar does not know the process and that includes the White House,” Marrero said.

Regarding Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, Marrero said that because of the federal shutdown he does not know when the $8.2 billion that has already been allocated is going to be received. Federal officials told the government it would take them longer to evaluate a plan developed by the government.

Which funds is the island at risk of losing because of the dispute over the construction of the wall along the U.S. southern border? “They are not FEMA or CDBG funds, but the ones allocated to the U.S. [Army] Corps of Engineers because the president has discretion over them as chief commander,” he said, referring to $2.5 billion for channeling of bodies of water at Puerto Nuevo in San Juan and other dredging projects in other jurisdictions.




Florida Sen. Scott files amendment for $600 million in additional funding for Puerto Rico

(Courtesy)

SAN JUAN –Florida Sen. Rick Scott advocated for Puerto Rico Thursday when filing an amendment to the Senate bill to finance the federal government that would allocate an additional $600 million to the island’s Nutritional Assistance Program.

“In Florida, we took aggressive action to support Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican community since before Hurricane Maria even made landfall, but our work isn’t done. Puerto Rico’s success is America’s success and Puerto Rico’s recovery is America’s recovery,” Scott said in a statement. “Puerto Rico does not have a voice in the United States Senate. I intend to be that voice.”

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón’s request for the additional funds was included in the lower chamber’s supplementary allocation bill.

“I am thrilled to have a partner in the U.S. Senate who makes Puerto Rico a priority,” González Colón said in a release. “As governor, Sen. Scott was there when Puerto Rico needed it most–and he has already proven that he will be a voice for Puerto Rico in the Senate.

“This funding is so important to help Puerto Rico continue to recover after Hurricane Maria, and I thank Sen. Scott for taking quick action to make this happen.

On Wednesday, the commissioner sent another letter to the leadership of the Senate and the Appropriations Committee to include the $600 million and for the island to receive 100 percent federal cost share for debris removal in Puerto Rico.”