The Executive Director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), Manuel Laboyrevealed on Monday that they intend this week to seek a second 30-day extension from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for emergency work due to the Hurricane Fiona.
“The request relates to 30 additional days for emergency works, in particular in the communes. That is, emergency measures such as landslides on bridges and highways and debris removal. Recall that FEMA had already accepted the first 30-day request for this 100% funded work”said the official.
Laboy, after participating in a meeting in La Fortaleza with the governor Pierre Pierluisi, clarified that the deadline set by FEMA to fully cover the emergency work due to Fiona expires on November 17. The first extension was requested by the government from FEMA before October 17, when the federally ordered 30 days expired after Fiona landed on the island on September 17.
To the questions of this medium, The official explained that FEMA’s second extension would be requested because they had received calls from mayors asking for more time. “due to the constant rains that have been recorded recently. This complicated the work they did for the emergency works and hence they understand that they would need more time.
Further, he reiterated that the preliminary damage caused by Hurricane Fiona is estimated at nearly $5 billion in public infrastructure alone and does not include funds from other programs such as CDBG-DR.
“When you add it all up, the Governor rightly indicated that number could be close to $10 billion when you add it all up,” Laboy noted.
“We are already approaching the stage where FEMA, with COR3, will perform detailed inspections. Before it was the preliminary inspections. Now there would be much deeper and more detailed inspections,” he added.
Laboy was confident of receiving FEMA’s response to the extension after analyzing each case.
“We understand that (FEMA) needs to respond by the deadline (November 17),” he said.
Disbursements for Maria’s projects
On the other hand, Laboy told how the disbursements are carried out under the so-called Working Capital Advance (WCA) program which allows the advance of 25% of the funds allocated by FEMA, in English for permanent recovery projects after the hurricane scourge. Married. The program started last June with municipalities and was later extended to projects from the Electric Power Authority (PREPA), the Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (AAA) and the Department of Education (DE).
Just last week, FEMA authorized the government of Puerto Rico to provide advances of 25% of funds allocated to any government agency or non-profit organization for permanent construction projects in the aftermath of the hurricane. Mary.
The WCA must be requested by the agency, municipality or non-profit organization through a COR3 platform. Eligible projects must not have started and must already have funds allocated by FEMA. COR3 has 7 to 10 days to make the disbursement.
Laboy explained that, so far, 41 municipalities have requested the WCA for 253 reconstruction projects, totaling the disbursement of $87.8 million. For PREPA, COR3 disbursed $150 million “mainly for the purchase of equipment,” Laboy said.
For PRASA, $173 million was disbursed for 16 projects and for DE, $44.6 million was allocated for engineering and architectural works.
The Department of Housing and the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation have also already started soliciting the WCA, the COR3 executive director said. He announced that in November, the University of Puerto Rico, the Department of Health, the Department of Transportation and Public Works, the Department of Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture, among others, will have to request advances. .
Asked about the benefit of advancing 25% of allocated federal money if the recipient does not have all the necessary scaffolding to make way for reconstruction work, Laboy said that since January 2021, COR3 has been training fund applicants. all the tools they need to make work happen.
“I would say most, if not all, municipalities somehow have the tools and are trained,” he said.
However, he acknowledged that other factors could have an impact on the reconstruction work, such as the lack of skilled labour.
“Task force” in action
On the other hand, Laboy said that after the visit to the island by the Secretary of the United States Department of Energy, Jennifer Granholma “task force” has been created with the task of ensuring that “the electrical system due to Fiona’s damage” is stabilized.
“Certainly the damage that was collected indicates that the most critical situation was in the generation part. But it was not limited to the generation alone. It was the whole system because you have to see the system in an integrated way This task force, the “task force, through this direct federal assistance this week, should begin submitting these results for the corresponding evaluation and what steps are going to be taken to effect this stabilization,” Laboy said not without d First of all, it should be pointed out that this work only relates exclusively to the damage caused by Hurricane Fiona.