OBoard OKs $19.5M in emergency aid to allocate to municipalities
The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico announced that it approved the government’s request for advancing funds for Puerto Rico’s municipalities following the devastation of Hurricane Fiona.
The Oversight Board authorized emergency disbursements from the Emergency Reserve of up to $250,000 for each of the 78 municipalities to support recovery efforts related to the effects of Hurricane Fiona in less than 24 hours of the request received by the government, it stated.
“Hurricane Fiona was devastating, and the Oversight Board stands ready to support the government where it can, so Puerto Rico recovers as fast as possible,” said the Oversight Board’s Chairman David Skeel. “Our hopes, thoughts, and prayers continue to be with the people of Puerto Rico.”
The Oversight Board has also approved a request from the Municipal Revenues Collection Center (CRIM, in Spanish) to advance certain municipalities a total of about $22 million in property taxes disbursements to assist with the immediate reconstruction efforts.
In a news conference earlier this week, members of the Puerto Rico Mayors Association had lobbied for at least $500,000 in emergency fund allocations in the wake of the devastation the Cat-1 hurricane caused.
“The municipalities took charge of getting the generators, since the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the government did not help,” said Luis Hernandez, Puerto Rico Mayors Association president.
The mayors present at the press conference explained the different situations their cities are experiencing, like how 18 homes were destroyed in Guanica, bridges and agriculture affected in Adjuntas, as well as other situations in other municipalities.
Hernandez, who’s also Mayor in Villalba, explained how there’s a weak infrastructure and his city received almost 30 inches of rain, in addition to several weeks of heavy rains prior to Hurricane Fiona’s arrival that caused the land to be saturated.
The disaster that left many southern and southwestern towns severely flooded, prompted the start of disaster assistance programs from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the U.S. Small Business Administration
President Joe Biden approved a major disaster declaration that so far includes 58 of the island’s 78 municipalities.
The list excludes hard-hit Cabo Rojo — where Hurricane María made landfall. News is my Business was unable to get a hold of municipal authorities as of press time for further details.
“I have not received information from Cabo Rojo, but I have received information from other municipalities such as Salinas, from other nearby municipalities through the association, from which we have had constant communication.
“I’m still clearing roads in my town four days later, I have 100% of my residents without electricity and 50% without water,” said Hernández.
“Right now, we’re in a recovery and I think that no mayor is currently quantifying damage, because we’re helping the community and we’re in an emergency phase which focuses on search and rescue,” said Hernandez.
“Until we get out of that phase, we get into the phase of assessing the damage, but I can tell you in advance that the losses in each municipality may cost millions of dollars, in infrastructure, in recovery efforts, and in terms of the economy,” Hernández said.