Four of Puerto Rico’s largest businesses are opening their corporate wallets to help victims of the earthquakes that have hit the island’s southern towns recover.
The group includes Ponce-based Destilería Serrallés, Inc., producer of Don Q rum, which announced it will contribute $1 million to provide immediate disaster relief and essential services.
“We stand in solidarity with our communities in Ponce and the southwest region as they confront this tragic and unprecedented disaster,” said Philippe Brechot, president of Destilería Serrallés.
“The entire team at Destilería Serrallés is committed to providing a helping hand and we are confident that this contribution will help alleviate some of the suffering while providing immediate supplies and direct services to assist our local communities in need,” he said.
The company is currently identifying local nonprofit organizations to collaborate with quickly, defining services to be provided and the specific communities to assist in Ponce and surrounding municipalities, officials said.
The main priority is ensuring the funds provide direct aid to needy communities with utmost efficiency and transparency, it added.
Retailer Walmart and the Walmart Foundation are committing up to $500,000 in cash and in-kind support for relief and recovery, as announced.
The commitment will support the American Red Cross, Salvation Army, World Central Kitchen and Mercy Corps through both cash grants and in-kind product donations. These organizations are actively engaged in responding to the needs of the communities impacted by the earthquakes.
“Our hearts go out to the people of Puerto Rico as they work to recover from the impact of the earthquakes,” said Julie Gehrki, vice president, philanthropy at Walmart. “In times like these, it’s so important to help meet the needs of our associates and our customers in the devastated area, as well as support the nonprofits, first responders, local officials and government organizations that are working tirelessly to provide relief.”
Walmart has more than 12,600 associates and 37 facilities in Puerto Rico, all of which are currently operational. Stores are assisting associates that have been displaced from their homes due to the damage caused by the disaster.
Walmart and Sam’s Club teams are also assisting those affected by the earthquake by delivering much needed supplies to impacted communities.
Banco Popular, meanwhile, announced it will donate $250,000 to several nonprofits to mitigate part of the problems caused by the earthquakes and subsequent aftershocks.
The financial institution’s philanthropic arm, the Banco Popular Foundation, reached out to Causa Local Para Apoyo de Emergencia a Empresarios, Centro de Microempresas y Tecnologías Agrícolas de Yauco, IDIIFCO (Guánica and Yauco), Centro de Servicios Ferrán and World Central Kitchen, among others.
The organizations will be offering psychological help, business support and food distribution.
In addition, as part of these initiatives, more than 60 Popular ATMs, located in branches and other areas such as Cabo Rojo, Guánica, Guayanilla, Lajas, Peñuelas, Ponce, Sábana Grande, San Germán and Yauco, are waiving the service fee to clients of other banking institutions that need to use the machines, the bank confirmed.
Furthermore, the financial institution offering guidance on the claim processes for properties that have been damaged, and clients whose payment capacity has been affected.
“Many people have approached us asking about repossessed properties as a mitigation mechanism,” said Carlos Rivas, first vice president of mortgage services at Popular.
“The reality is that the vast majority of homes that appear to be in the custody of the bank, in effect, are still in the process of repossession and the debtor, who continues to own it, still has the opportunity to reinstate their loan or enter into a process of loss mitigation,” he said.
“Moreover, the bank doesn’t have access to the interior of the property except by court order, and even with an order, it doesn’t currently have the necessary certifications or inspections to make them available within a reasonable term,” said Rivas, adding that the inventory of repossessed properties in that area that are owned by Popular is very low.
Finally, Evertec Inc. announced it will donate $50,000 for earthquake relief in Puerto Rico, through a to Foundation for Puerto Rico’s Puerto Rico Earthquake Relief Fund.
The fund will be used to activate a series of rapid-response initiatives to address both the short-term needs of the impacted areas, as well as long-term initiatives that can help support economic development.
From an immediate standpoint, the relief efforts will supply basic emergency supplies to the evacuees, mental health support, medical aid to patients, and more as needs are assessed.
Longer-term, the funds will be used to create sustainable and resilient economic growth through the Small Business Cash Grant Program, an initiative focused on the recovery of small businesses, allowing them to remain open through the days and weeks following the state of emergency.