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Gov’t to pump $400M in recovery funds to strengthen health centers

Following a competitive process, 38 out of 248 proposals were selected.

Some $400 million from the Community Development Block Grant – Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) program will be invested to help strengthen Puerto Rico health centers by developing projects to ensure the continuity of essential medical services before, during and after an emergency or disaster, announced Gov. Pedro Pierluisi.

Utilizing an allocation from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the local government created the INFRA-Health program, which sets aside $1 billion to improve the infrastructure of health care facilities to meet medical needs and prevent deaths.

“From that, we set aside $400 million for a competitive proposal process in which public and private entities, both non- and for-profit, could participate,” Pierluisi said at a news conference, joined by Health Secretary Carlos Mellado and Housing Secretary William Rodríguez.

“The goal is to promote safety in Puerto Rico’s health centers and guarantee greater resilience amid emergencies or natural disasters, mitigating damage that could affect the availability of medical services to the public,” he added.

Following a competitive process under the Infrastructure Mitigation Program’s Health Care Strengthening Reserve (INFRA-HSA), 38 projects out of 248 proposals were selected. The proposals received were evaluated based on the CDBG-MIT program’s requirements, the scope and community benefit, the progress of each project’s development, alignment with the program’s objectives, and the impact on addressing identified risk mitigation needs, among other aspects.

“During and after an emergency, it’s vital that the health system continues to offer essential services, and each of these projects announced today aims to fulfill this by improving infrastructure and technology, always focusing on citizens’ well-being,” Rodríguez said.

The distribution of the 38 selected projects is as follows: three projects from public entities/agencies, one municipal project, 21 projects from nonprofit private entities, and 13 projects from for-profit private entities.

Under the INFRA-HSA Program, grants were awarded to public entities to cover the total cost of the projects. In these cases, the maximum allocation per project and eligible entity is $100 million. For private entities, both non- and for-profit, the INFRA-HSA Program will award a maximum grant per project of $10 million, up to a maximum of $100 million per entity.

Health facilities chosen for funding
Among the selected public entities whose projects will receive 100% funding is the Health Department, a government agency that has proposed improvements to 14 medical facilities across Puerto Rico, including the HURRA Hospital in Bayamón, the Autism Center in San Juan, Pediatric Centers in Mayagüez and Arecibo, and CDT and Transitional Service Centers in various municipalities, with an investment of $100 million.

Additionally, the municipality of Juncos will receive a grant of $3.5 million for infrastructure improvements at the Dr. César Collazo Municipal Hospital, including electrical, ventilation and air conditioning systems upgrades, as well as the replacement of imaging equipment.

The Cardiovascular Center of Puerto Rico and the Caribbean will receive more than $54 million for the construction and reconstruction of facilities, examination rooms, parking lots, improved access and a heliport. Meanwhile, the Comprehensive Cancer Center was selected to create an oxygen generation system to better prepare for disasters and will receive $6.4 million.

The remaining proposals came from private entities, whose 34 projects total $235 million.

“Among the projects supported by these funds are the construction and reconstruction of facilities in areas of the island affected by hurricanes, as well as resilience improvements to hospitals and health centers through solar panel systems, generators, water reserve tanks, hurricane-resistant structural repairs and flood control access projects,” the governor added.

“We also have projects to improve emergency rooms and purchase new equipment, optimize telecommunications systems and electronic medical records, and expand capacity to address mental health emergencies,” he said.

The Housing Department will formalize grant agreements with all entities to begin financing processes and ensure that construction starts “as soon as possible.”

Some projects have nearly completed the design phase, while others are in the planning stage.

Some of the next steps include the Housing Department’s efforts to coordinate meetings with all selected entities to formalize the grant agreements. Assistance and training will be provided to the entities on the use and compliance of CDBG-MIT funds.

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

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