The Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (known as COR3) will take over in April the responsibility to review and reimbursement approval of federal recovery funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, government officials announced.
This agreement comes after “extensive effort on the part of Puerto Rico to work with FEMA and establish robust policies for internal controls and full compliance with federal regulations for the protection and disbursement of federal funds,” the officials said.
“The policies and procedures established to manage, internally control, and expedite these funds will demonstrate that Puerto Rico is best positioned to manage its own recovery and as such, be a model of recovery,” said COR3 Executive Director Omar J. Marrero, during a news conference.
“In this regard, I thank FEMA for working with us to reach this agreement,” he said, adding the end of FEMA’s 270 process and the transition of responsibility is expected to take place as quickly as possible, but not later than April 2019.
The agreement is an “indication of Puerto Rico’s ability to manage its recovery with the same discretions afforded to any other state,” government officials said.
By assuming control of the reimbursement process, Puerto Rico can work to expedite this critical funding to all sub-recipients across the island and accelerate the recovery process.
“I’m excited that together with the government of Puerto Rico we’re ready to move into the next phase of recovery,” said Mike Byrne, FEMA’s acting Caribbean area division director for disaster operations in Puerto Rico.
“Our commitment to rebuilding Puerto Rico is stronger than ever and our partnership is key to ensuring a more resilient island,” he said.
To date, more than $5 billion of FEMA Public Assistance Grant Program funding has been obligated toward response and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. However, the estimate to cover the entirety of Puerto Rico’s disaster has been estimated at $55 billion. (For more details, listen to today’s episode of the Dollar$ and $ense podcast.)
To ensure that the process is carried out in an “efficient and transparent manner with full protection for and in compliance with the applicable federal regulations,” COR3 enlisted the assistance of third-party experts to establish, in collaboration with FEMA, all the required and necessary protocols to assume this responsibility, Marrero said.
COR3 has also set up an online compliance hotline, as “an independent, impartial, and confidential mechanism for the reporting of information related to known or suspected fraud, waste and abuse. The can also be accessed by phone, at 1-888-876-7548.