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FEMA assigns $10M+ to repair Puerto Rico’s elderly homes

With the purpose of contributing to the well-being and health of the elderly, the Federal Emergency Management Agency announced it has allocated more than $10 million for 31 permanent repair projects for senior centers throughout the island.

The funds will serve 24 municipal facilities that are dedicated to the care of this population and another seven owned by private nonprofits. According to the US Census, there were about 680,000 people aged 65 and older living in Puerto Rico in 2019.

“Older adults represent one of the most vulnerable populations during an emergency. It’s imperative to take their needs into account during this historic recovery process,” said the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, José Baquero-Tirado.

An obligation of $500,000 is earmarked for the Celia T. Mondríguez Senior Center in Las Piedras to repair the damage caused by Hurricane María. Founded more than 30 years ago, this center has 18 employees, among them nursing and social work professionals, who serve some 110 people.

Marieli Ruiz-Lozada, the Center’s director, said the work carried out there is incalculable for the municipality of Las Piedras, as it goes beyond a nutrition service.

“We touch the life of that old person who is often lonely. In addition, it’s a free service and we don’t measure the economic side at all when offering the service,” she said.

Meanwhile, Las Piedras Mayor Miguel “Micky” López Rivera, said the municipality’s priority is to remodel the facilities so that they are suitable for the residents and provide them with a better quality of life.

“Definitely, this will help us to provide them with their accommodations, based on the work that will be done and that they need so much,” he said.

Another entity with a funding obligation is the Ryder Housing for the Elderly in Humacao, a 96-apartment building with 130 residents from different municipalities. The allocation for this center, aimed at low-income populations over the age of 62, is about $4 million, FEMA confirmed.

Of these funds, the majority covers improvements to prevent future damage, such as the installation of electrical surge protectors, repairs to fences and anchors for power poles.

“Thanks to FEMA’s support, from the very beginning we could feel that there was hope and that soon our senior citizens would once again have a safe roof over their heads,” said José R. Feliciano, executive director of Ryder Hospital.

“Today we’re on our feet and, although we still have a long way to go, we hope that the mitigation activities will help us be better prepared and stronger to face any new natural event,” he said.

Another $1.3 million was obligated to the San Rafael Geriatric Center in Arecibo, a hospice administered by a volunteer board of directors and the Hijas de la Caridad nuns.

The assignment includes $156,000 that will help ensure a safer building by sealing the exteriors, especially the roof. In addition, the center received a $20,000 grant through FEMA’s philanthropic branch, which will go toward other repairs.

“The funds earmarked for several senior centers on the island allow us to give greater attention to a sector of our society that requires it so much, particularly during this pandemic,” said The Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3, in Spanish) Executive Director Manuel Laboy.

“These spaces provide care, as well as attention and companionship to their residents, and the federal obligation will contribute to a better quality of life for each of them,” Laboy added.

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

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