White House announces $12.8 billion obligation for electric grid and education recovery in Puerto Rico
September 18, 2020- San Juan, Puerto Rico- Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón highlighted that the agreement between the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for valued at $10.5 billion, and the FEMA agreement with the Puerto Rico Department of Education for valued at $2.3 billion are the results of the joint effort of the congresswoman's oversight of state and federal agencies as well as the federal administration's commitment to rebuilding Puerto Rico.
“I thank President Trump for signing this historic agreement and making the obligation of federal funds a reality to fix the electric grid and the schools devastated throughout the Island by the hurricanes. These resources approved by the Administration today will improve the infrastructure on the Island, serving as a catalyst for increased manufacturing and help strengthen our common goal of a robust national stockpile that is made in U.S. soil. I am thankful to Administrator Gaynor for putting federal aid approved in Congress to work. This additional new funding from FEMA directly to Puerto Rico sends a powerful message that this Administration is taking concrete actions for the people on the Island, approving and disbursing funds never seen before in Puerto Rico,” said congresswoman González-Colón
Right after Hurricane Maria made its landfall in Puerto Rico, the congresswoman brought to the Island over 100 members of Congress from both parties to assess and see first-hand the level of devastation on the Island. As a result of these visits and the congresswoman’s close relations with the White House, Puerto Rico was allocated the largest amount in federal fund on its history and the agreement announced today shows the continuous efforts to accelerate reconstruction.
In the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, Congress allocated $2 billion under the Community Development Block Grant- Disaster Relief (CDBD-DR) program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) specifically for improbement of Puerto Rico's electric grid. Today’s newly announced allocation of $9.5 billion will allow the improvement of the grid and the construction of a stronger, better, and more resistant one for the residents of the Island.
To date, FEMA has obligated $17.7 billion to the Island, of which $13 billion have been disbursed. Under today’s $12.8 billion agreement, 90% of costs will be covered by the federal government and 10% by the state government. This represents a federal allocation of $11.5 billion, bringing the total amount of obligated FEMA funding to $29.2 billion.
“We have worked to ensure that Puerto Rico is allocated even more funds necessary for our reconstruction. Our fragile electrical grid was severely damaged by Hurricane Maria causing the largest blackout in the nation's history and one of the longest in the world. Our goal has always been to build a more resilient electrical grid, not to return to the same system as before, and we are moving towards this with this new assignment, which underscores the Administration's commitment to the Puerto Rican people,” stated the congresswoman.
At the same time today, another $ 2.3 billion agreement was announced to rebuild and improve the physical structures of schools in Puerto Rico. Last May, after the Resident Commissioner requested the status of the funds from the Puerto Rico Department of Education, the secretary of the state agency informed the congresswoman that they were working together with COR3 and FEMA in this agreement, for a fixed cost estimate per square foot for rehabilitation work under FEMA Category E, in relation to Hurricane Maria.
Category E, for buildings and equipment, covers structural components, interior systems (for example, electrical and mechanical systems), building contents, vehicles and equipment as eligible for repair or replacement. Replacement of pre-disaster supplies and consumable inventory quantities, replacement of library books and publications, and stabilization of damaged records are also eligible. If accumulated disaster-related mud, silt, or other debris does not pose an immediate threat but its removal is necessary to restore the building, its removal is eligible as permanent work; if it poses an immediate threat, disaster-related work will be classified as Category A (Debris Removal).
“Our schools have suffered greatly from the effects of Irma, María, and the recent earthquakes. After Maria, we secured funds in the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 to mitigate the effects of the disaster on our education system, including RESTART funds to cover expenses to reestablish operations in elementary and high schools, and now we continue to strengthen it by ensuring that our students have stronger and safer schools infrastructures, ”said Rep. González-Colón.