The Program to Deal with Housing Needs in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María Lingers in a Limbo

The Governor assures that the R3 program’s priority is to rebuild and repair homes, but the initiative poses a threat of displacement by hindering construction in flood-prone zones, and by not offering as an option reducing risks in the communities, because the federal funding for it hasn’t arrived. Two and a half years after the disaster, the main housing recovery program has not relocated anyone. María Pérez-Ramos never imagined that the land ceded by the former mayor of Canovanas, José “Chemo” Soto, in the San Isidro community 19 years ago, was flood-prone. Had she known, she would not have accepted it, she said. Now, all she wants is to move to a safe place where she doesn’t have to be afraid when hurricane season arrives in the summer.

Twice Without a Roof: Government Inefficiency Worsens Effects of Hurricanes and Earthquakes in Puerto Rico

The trauma of losing a home has repeated itself over the past three years for many families: first because of Hurricane María, and then due to the earthquakes. They have learned a lesson. Government help has seldom been a solution. It took Yahaira Santiago two years to fix the roof that Hurricane María ripped off her home at the La Playa de Ponce sector in the South coast. She had returned home only a few weeks before, when the Jan.

Former HUD Deputy Secretary Works at Firm Commissioned for Puerto Rico’s Recovery Efforts

Pamela H. Patenaude helped lock down a record amount of recovery funds for the Island. After her resignation from the U.S. Department of Housing, she went to work with the firm IEM, which obtained a multi-million-dollar contract with the first allocation of the money she secured. When Pamela H. Patenaude announced her departure as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Dec. 17, 2018, former Secretary of the Puerto Rico Housing Department, Fernando Gil-Enseñat, and several local officials publicly lamented it. Patenaude, who was second in command after Secretary Ben Carson, was an important ally of the Island after Hurricanes Irma and María in September 2017.

Puerto Rico Transportation Authority Refuses to Release Information on Damaged Bridges, and CPI Sues Them

COMUNICADO DE PRENSA

After exhausting all efforts to obtain a list of vulnerable, destroyed and reopened bridges after Hurricane María from the Highways and Transportation Authority (ACT, in Spanish), the Center for Investigative Journalism (CPI, in Spanish) filed a request for mandamus from the court to force the agency to fulfill its duty of providing access to this public information. “No one in the ACT and the Department of Transportation and Public Works (DTOP, in Spanish) has delivered the information requested” since Sept. 4, 2019 by journalist Rafael R. Díaz-Torres, according to the complaint filed in the San Juan Superior Court against Rosana Aguilar-Zapata, Executive Director of the ACT. “The only excuse the agency offered for denying access to this information is that they were afraid to share the list, since they feared that the press wouldn’t know how to use the document or could misunderstand it. After everything failed: making dozens of calls, [leaving] telephone and text messages and conducting interviews in person to obtain the requested information, the CPI filed this lawsuit given the official’s breach of her executive duty to facilitate access to public information,” said Carla Minet, executive director of the Center.

FEMA Slashes $21M from the Initial Cost Estimate of the Vieques Medical Facility

The death of a teenager in Vieques whose relatives recounted how she died due to lack of medical services there, unleashed the rage of the residents of Isla Nena a week ago. The Viequenses brought cement blocks to the public square, as a protest art installation of sorts, demanding the construction of a proper hospital to provide health services to the island municipality some nine miles off the East coast of Puerto Rico. A few days later, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in an effort to neutralize criticism of its bureaucracy, announced the obligation of about $39.5 million for the reconstruction of the Vieques Susana Centeno Family Health Center destroyed by Hurricane María. FEMA has been evaluating this project since October 2018, although as of February of that same year it had already conducted a study that revealed the presence of different types of mold in the installation that represent a health risk for people with compromised immune systems. The study pointed to the need to replace the structure. FEMA, the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), and the Municipality of Vieques announced last week that they agreed that the project’s estimated cost would be $49,323,985.