FEMA hosts mayor’s summit to review progress 5 years since María
Of the more than 10,000 projects approved by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) since Hurricane María struck and crippled Puerto Rico nearly five years ago, more than 6,000 are for municipalities, representing some $3.3 billion in funds for permanent work corresponding to municipal projects.
The information was confirmed during a meeting between the federal agency and Puerto Rico mayors who gathered at the Yolanda Guerrero Cultural Center in Guaynabo, which set the the stage to review lessons learned, work completed and work in progress.
Officials discussed the diversity of funds available under the federal Stafford Act and the allocations approved to date. There was also a rundown of major projects — some with obligated funds, others already under construction — that have resulted in allocations that have a direct impact on communities and the local economy.
Among the allocations, those awarded through the FEMA Accelerated Awards Strategy (FAASt) were highlighted and how the bulk approval of these funds will allow for a faster reconstruction of the facilities of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), the Department of Education and for public housing structures under the Puerto Rico Department Housing.
Agency staff also participated in the event to answer questions and address questions from the mayors about ongoing municipal projects.
Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, José G. Baquero, said the agency will continue to work alongside the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), the local government and the other subrecipients to continue supporting the reconstruction process, which, although it will take time, remains at an ongoing steady pace.
He also said the goal for 2022 is to complete most of the pending allocations, in addition to supporting the transition of projects to the construction phase.
Loíza Mayor Julia Nazario-Fuentes, who was at the summit, said 79% of the municipality’s roads are already paved, adding that the restored parks and recreational areas as reconstruction projects have been of “great benefit to the communities.”
“After María, people’s spirits were greatly affected. But seeing the streets paved and the infrastructure renovated lifts their spirits. Loíza is very beautiful. We still have a long way to go, but we’re on the right track,” she said, adding that the town’s small projects are nearing completion, and the design of large projects is already underway.
In Orocovis, Mayor Jesús Colón-Berlingeri said the town has already completed close to 90 projects in different communities, and will now focus on large projects, such as the Elderly Center, the Fine Arts Center and one of the bridges that connects communities in Ciales with another community in Orocovis.
Going forward, FEMA seeks to continue its support for hazard mitigation projects and to define alternative projects for a more efficient recovery, Baquero said.