Acevedo Vilá: Almost 3 years after Hurricane Maria only 2% of total federal funds has been disbursed

By The Star Staff

Almost three years after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico and destroyed homes and infrastructure, only 16 percent of the federal funds has been obligated and only 2 percent has been disbursed for public works.

According to official data, the federal government has allocated more than $49 billion in federal funds for recovery. Of that amount, $19 billion comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Of that item, only $3 billion has been obligated while only $67 million has been disbursed or spent, according to information provided by former Gov. Aníbal Acevedo Vilá, who is running for resident commissioner under the Popular Democratic Party (PDP) banner.

Acevedo Vilá, along with other PDP candidates, said Monday that this constitutes “a scandal of greater proportions because only 0.33 percent of the total allocated has been invested to address the housing crisis that the country [Puerto Rico] faces.”

In the opinion of the former head of the Public Housing Administration and candidate for an at-large House seat, Gabriel López Arrieta, this “disaster” in the administration of the aforementioned funds is due to the inability of the current New Progressive Party administration, including Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón.

“Three years after Hurricane Maria, the country continues to suffer from the administrative incapacity of this administration, the complicity of the Legislative Assembly and the abandonment of Puerto Rican families who continue without safe roofs over their homes,” López Arrieta said.

Acevedo Vilá pointed out that those federal funds that have been allocated, some through the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others through various other federal agencies, are simply not reaching the people.

“The incredible thing is that this government has had three years to use funds that ordinarily expire six years after the Action Plan is approved,” Acevedo Vilá said. “The incompetence of this administration has caused about 25,000 families today to be living under blue tarps and another 70,000 families are waiting for the reconstruction of their homes.”

“The resident commissioner has to work with her Republican government and the president that she defends so much, so that these items are usable. She has to work with Ben Carson, the federal secretary of housing, to expedite the amendments to the action plan,” the former governor added. “To date all their advertisements and fanfare are mere optical illusions full of bureaucracy resulting in a highly inefficient process.”

PDP Sen. Aníbal José Torres said the outlook is complicated due to the bureaucratic process created to award the funds.

“This outlook makes clear an administrative collapse in the face of an incoherent reconstruction plan, thus costing thousands of Puerto Ricans housing at the peak of the hurricane season,” he said.

The PDP group proposed amending the action plan with the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development to channel the projects to Puerto Rico’s municipalities and other island non-profit organizations so they can move fast.

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