Puerto Rico churches get $498M from FEMA to repair facilities
After the impact of Hurricane María, hundreds of churches and houses of worship opened their doors to lend a hand in their communities. People went there for food, basic supplies, and assistance in picking up debris and replacing tin roofs that did not withstand the wind.
Amidst the large amount of fallen vegetation and the need for provisions, “the churches are a beacon to encourage people to keep going”. This is how Pastor Dalma Pérez of the Iglesia Cristina Discípulos de Cristo Río Lajas in Toa Alta described her experience of the first days after the storm hit.
Today, more than 800 houses of worship like this one has funding allocations to repair their damage or have already completed their construction work with the help of about $498 million from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), most of it earmarked for permanent reconstruction work.
The projects not only include spaces that were damaged by María, but also by the 2020 earthquakes. This will help these emblematic entities in every community on the island to continue their social relief work.
“It’s important to recognize the significant number of facilities that will be rebuilt and preserved through these funds, some of which have a rich cultural history that dates back hundreds of years. These obligations will help ensure residents can continue to visit their faith-based venues and that they are safe for the congregations who visit them,” said Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, José Baquero.
Víctor Manuel Ramos, pastor of the Discípulos de Cristo church in Los Llanos sector, Barrio Ortiz in Toa Alta, said one of the benefits of the FEMA funds is that the church now has a fund to repair what was damaged, so it can use more resources to help the community.
“That’s the way we have done it. As we have finished the repair of the building, now the resources are used to help the community, such as basketball tournaments for children and a social club for the elderly,” he said.
This church received an obligation of more than $55,000 to repair the air conditioners, the roof, acoustic ceiling and replace spotlights, fences, and lamps. Of these funds, nearly $3,000 went to mitigation measures to prevent damage in future disasters, such as an anchoring system for air conditioning units.
“Faith-based facilities are important for social development, as they offer various community support services,” said Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3) Executive Director Manuel Laboy.
“The reconstruction of these spaces will give resilience to the infrastructure, which will allow for the continuity of services. Our work team will continue to assist them in the necessary steps to keep these projects on track,” he said.
Other houses of worship received obligations to repair walls, windows and doors, administrative offices, kitchens, and other components, such as the Movimiento de Iglesias Unión Cristiana Misionera located at Barrio Sabana Hoyos in Vega Alta, that received funding for nearly $91,200, and Iglesia Metodista de Puerto Rico, with an allocation of $96,000 for two of their churches located in San Juan and Caguas.