Federal Agencies FEMA, DOE, and DOC Reiterate Commitment to Puerto Rico’s Recovery from Natural Disasters

(August 19, 2021 – Washington, DC) – The Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) Carmen M. Feliciano and the Executive Director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction, and Resilience (COR3) Eng. Manuel A. Laboy Rivera met with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) to discuss disaster recovery progress. 

During the meeting with FEMA, the officials provided an update on the recovery progress from the 2017 hurricanes and the earthquakes. They also spoke on the Accelerated Award Obligation Strategy (FAASt) projects, and the “validate-as-you-go” (VayGo) program that reviews project expenditures to ensure compliance. Additionally, they discussed the 404 Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) that seeks to implement critical mitigation measures to reduce the risk of loss of life and property from future disasters. They also provided updates on LUMA’s integration into the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) recovery projects, and renewable energy and climate change adaptation initiatives. 

The Puerto Rico officials also met with the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Regional Affairs Craig Buerstatte from the Economic Development Administration (EDA). During this meeting they shared additional details on the status of the Natural Disaster Recovery Framework (NDRF-ESF) that enables effective recovery support to disaster impacted jurisdictions and evaluate potential improvements to interagency initiatives via the Interagency Recovery Coordination (IRC) to better integrate all disaster recovery efforts. They also participated of a joint Energy Subgroup meeting with DOE and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 

“Puerto Rico has faced many unprecedented natural disasters since 2017, and as we continue to move forward and achieving significant progress on the Island’s recovery, it is crucial we remain in collaboration with federal officials, as well as the Biden-Harris Administration to remove past unnecessary hurdles. We will continue to work in partnership with federal agencies by providing regular updates on ongoing revitalizing projects and the status of our recovery progress. Our goal is to create a resilient and strong Puerto Rico for future generations,” said PRFAA’s Executive Director, Carmen M. Feliciano. 

“Teamwork between state and federal agencies is key to facilitating the processes required under applicable laws and regulations for the continuous development of permanent reconstruction works. We continue engaging in conversations with FEMA, the DOE, HUD, EDA, and other stakeholders at the federal level about alternatives that provide equal treatment to Puerto Rico compared to other jurisdictions and territories in the United States, and that will be of great help to our subrecipients in the execution of their projects,” said Eng. Manuel A. Laboy Rivera.

The engineer continued, “In recent months we have remained committed to improving processes to accelerate Public Assistance permanent project reconstruction works and disbursements and have also strengthened COR3’s HMGP team with additional internal and external resources to reach the total obligation of $4 billion of funds that were allocated for hazard mitigation measures after Hurricane Maria on or before October 31, 2021. It should be noted HMGP projects that are currently being worked on include important mitigation works for critical PREPA infrastructure.”

“A recovery as unique as Puerto Rico’s requires blending support across the federal family of agencies. These partnerships, along with our efforts to successfully move over 8,200 projects to obligation, are key to the island’s long-term recovery. There is still much work to be done and we look forward to our continued collaborations to help build back a more resilient Puerto Rico,” said the Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, José G. Baquero.

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