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Federal economic dev’t agencies convene summit in Ponce

U.S. Deputy Commerce Secretary and Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator Don Graves convened a meeting of Puerto Rico’s southern municipalities and three multi-agency funded collaborations connected in the economic growth and recovery mission.

The three collaborative initiatives, under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the U.S. Economic Development Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), share a common impact area in the southern part of Puerto Rico, officials said.

Maximiliano J. Trujillo-Ortega, USDA Rural Development’s state director for Puerto Rico, said the administration of President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and the USDA continue their efforts to improve that quality of life of rural areas in Puerto Rico, thanking Graves for the invitation to attend and the Rural Partners Network’s (RPN) senior staff to discuss current efforts in the southern region.

“This is a great gathering of economic development initiatives that promotes collaboration between federal agencies, local government and communities,” said Trujillo.

“The three entities reflect a comprehensive partnership approach to economic development: rebuilding the housing stock, improving rural infrastructure and promoting business growth. All three elements, with community input and participation, are essential for the sustainable economic development of Puerto Rico’s rural areas and economic growth,” he added.

The municipalities and attendees of this first summit of the collaboration between the Southern Puerto Rico Economic Development District (Spredd) — designated by the EDA as the first regional Economic Development District (EDD) in Puerto Rico — the Southern Consortium for the Management and Administration of Federal Funds for Earthquake Damage (Consur), and RPN. Given that USDA Rural Development has funds available for the Hurricane Fiona disaster, the program can offer up to 100% cost subsidy and for community facilities, and eligible entities can receive up to 75%.

Spredd is a designation that creates a new local-federal partnership to support entrepreneurs, mobilize new resources and plan for economic growth. A variety of industries will be supported in their economic development efforts, including health care, hospitality and agriculture.

As part of Consur, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing signed an agreement with mayors representing six southern towns affected by the 2020 earthquakes to allow the use of $36.4 million in Community Development Block Grant Program funds for long-term disaster recovery.

The Puerto Rico Housing Department will be the state administrator of these funds, and as a federal requirement, an action plan was developed to address the needs of these municipalities. Consur will administer the program in direct coordination with the mayors of the municipalities that will receive the assistance.

Meanwhile, the RPN helps establish community networks in rural areas where local leaders and residents collaborate with civic and business organizations, nonprofits, service providers, development agencies and others to create new opportunities and tap into a region’s diverse population and perspectives.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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