Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience of Puerto Rico (COR3), met with the leaders of Puerto Rico's mayor organizations last week to discuss updates concerning recovery efforts in the island's municipalities.
The president of the Mayors Federation, Ángel Pérez Otero, and the president of the Mayors Association, Luis Javier Hernández Ortiz -whose entities represent mayors under the New Progressive Party and Popular Democratic Party, respectively- met with Laboy to streamline internal processes in favor of expediting to the development of permanent works projects in the municipalities after the various disasters that occurred during the past years.
According to Laboy, COR3 presented various upcoming internal changes to eliminate bureaucracy and "be facilitators in the recovery and reconstruction process in the municipalities."
"The changes are related to the processes applicable to Requests for Reimbursement (RFR) and Requests for Advancement (RFA), which will allow to correct the current situation that creates a delay in the reimbursement process, providing the necessary injection of money to carry out municipal works. With the changes we are contemplating, we set ourselves the goal of disbursing the amount requested by the municipality within a period of 60 days in the case of an RFR, and 21 days in the case of an RFA, which will undoubtedly promise to expedite the reconstruction at the municipal level," the official said.
On Mar. 18, COR3 sent a letter to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), requesting that the agreement known as the 270 FEMA-State Agreement, related to disbursements to subrecipients, which have the unwanted effect of delaying the rebuilding processes be terminated.
The president of the Mayors Federation stated that “the reconstruction is being advanced, making it easier for the municipalities to manage and carry out the works in the communities. I am pleased with the changes COR3 is implementing to streamline and relax the requirements for disbursement of funds for reconstruction. This, together with the changes also announced by the Department of Housing, materializes the governor's commitment to eliminate the bureaucracy that hinders the works for the recovery of Puerto Rico."
This meeting was a prelude to the announcement that will soon be made with the details of the changes that will be implemented so that the municipalities can speed up their reconstruction projects.
"The proposals that were presented to us today by COR3 to eliminate the bureaucracy of the disbursement process are a necessary step to speed up reconstruction projects in the municipalities. On the other hand, we are pleased to know that COR3 has also officially asked FEMA to cancel the agreement signed in 2019 and that the recovery process has largely stalled. That is the correct route, in order to ensure that the required projects are started and completed without major obstacles in the medium and long term. We will continue to fight for our people in each municipality and reaffirm that the country rises from the municipalities," said the president of the Mayors Association.
During the meeting, the executive director of COR3 shared details about the survey that was carried out with the personnel of the municipalities that attend to matters related to the development of reconstruction projects and the capacity of the municipal councils to carry out the works. Through this, opportunities were identified to collaborate and improve the processes related to recovery, on which COR3 will be working together with the mayors and their respective work teams.
Lastly, Laboy pointed out that they are also in the final phase of presenting the new guides to municipalities and state agencies so that they can access the State Revolving Fund. Said fund will provide $750 million to advance money that will make the start of permanent projects viable so that this is the four-year period for the execution of the work, as established by the public policy of Gov. Pedro R. Pierluisi.
For more information about the process of the disbursement of FEMA-allocated recovery funds, visit www.recovery.pr.