Type to search

Featured Government

GAO: Progress made on Puerto Rico disaster recovery, but challenges remain

The U.S. Government Accountability Office released a report on Puerto Rico’s recovery since the 2017 hurricanes and the 2020 earthquakes in the island’s southwestern region, recommending actions for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on ongoing issues

The 56-page document notes a “substantial amount of permanent recovery work remaining.”

As of June 30, 2023, FEMA awarded about $23.4 billion in Public Assistance for 9,304 permanent work projects related to the recovery from hurricanes Irma and Maria and the earthquakes.

“According to FEMA officials, these awarded funds represent 98% of permanent work projects that FEMA expects to approve in Puerto Rico,” the GAO reported.

It highlighted that Puerto Rico “has to take additional steps to gain access to about $11.3 billion in Public Assistance funds that FEMA has awarded for permanent recovery work through its Accelerated Award Strategy. Of the approximately $23.4 billion awarded to Puerto Rico for permanent recovery work, FEMA awarded about $15.7 billion (about 67%) through the Accelerated Award Strategy to four subrecipients,” it stated, referring to the Puerto Rico Aqueducts & Sewer Authority, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, the Department of Education and the Public Housing Administration.

These agencies had completed about 9% of the work as of June 30, 2023.

“We previously reported that subrecipients in Puerto Rico have experienced challenges starting construction on Public Assistance permanent work projects due to limited access to start-up funds. In addition to funding issues, officials from subrecipient entities we spoke with also stated that they have faced other impediments that have slowed their construction progress,” the GAO stated in its report.

“While some of these issues, such as delays due to natural disasters, are out of FEMA’s control, FEMA and Puerto Rico Recovery Office officials told us that they have worked together to take actions that address some challenges to construction,” the GAO wrote.

These include piloting a program for advance disbursement of Public Assistance funds and facilitating access to funds for labor and equipment before project approvals, the agency stated.

The report also confirms that certain permanent recovery work projects face challenges due to increased costs.

“According to officials from the four Accelerated Award Strategy subrecipient entities, inflation and labor shortages have increased the costs of projects beyond their anticipated amounts,” the GAO stated.

Consequently, the GAO recommended that FEMA, with Puerto Rico and relevant federal agencies, assess risks to the remaining recovery efforts, including Puerto Rico’s capacity to execute projects.

“Further, we recommended that FEMA identify potential actions to manage the risks they identified and continuously monitor risks to the recovery. FEMA concurred with these recommendations and has drafted a risk management plan related to Puerto Rico’s recovery in response, which it intends to formally adopt for implementation by February 2024,” the GAO stated.

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

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *