By The Star Staff
Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience of Puerto Rico (COR3) Executive Director Manuel A. Laboy Rivera said over the weekend that $44.9 million has been disbursed to faith-based groups to rebuild projects damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and other natural disasters.
The money came from the Working Capital Advance (WCA) program. The groups also have been recipients of Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funding obligations.
“Faith-based entities represent an essential component for the social strengthening of Puerto Rico, and through the WCA pilot program, they have managed to direct important permanent works that have not started due to lack of money and that are of benefit to our people,” Laboy Rivera said. “COR3, complying with the public policy of Governor Pedro Pierluisi to provide the necessary tools to advance reconstruction, has disbursed over $96.8 million in advances and reimbursements for this sector. These disbursements go hand in hand with the increase in reconstruction projects.”
An example of the projects underway is the Disciples of Christ Church in Amelia, Cataño. The church facility, which the COR3 executive director recently visited, was destroyed by Hurricane Maria, and FEMA allocated about $2.6 million to rebuild.
At the request of the church leadership, COR3 advanced $661,217 through the WCA. Currently, reconstruction work is evident throughout the facility. Repair work on the roof, acoustics, electrical system, air conditioning, and parking lot paving, as well as the surrounding fences, has been completed on almost all buildings. Reconstruction of the altar and replacement of the slabs, among other works, are in progress.
Between November and October 2023, COR3 disbursed $11.9 million in funds from the WCA pilot program. Some of the entities that have recently received this advance of 25% of the FEMA allocation to promote the development of their projects include the San Benito School in Humacao, $2.3 million; San José Marianist School Corp. in San Juan, $1.2 million; Marist Association in Guaynabo, $1.5 million; Adventist University of the Antilles Inc. in Mayagüez, $205,393; First Baptist Church in Trujillo Alto, $273,041; Disciples of Christ Christian Church in P.R. Inc., $914,317; and Restoration in Christ Church in Bayamón, $332,133.
Laboy Rivera also visited the Iglesia Cristiana Discípulos de Cristo Bella Vista Caná de Bayamón, which has a FEMA obligation of $694,526 and received a WCA advance of $170,063. This allocation was used for various works that included removing and replacing roof sealing, painting, metal roof installation, and replacing acoustics and doors, among other improvements.
“We urge nonprofit organizations, like the rest of the subrecipients, to take advantage of the benefits of Working Capital Advance,” Laboy Rivera said. “The program is one of our main instruments for promoting the reconstruction and resilience of Puerto Rico.”
According to the Quarterly Progress Report (QPR), which measured the progress of reconstruction from July to September of this year, in the faith-based sector there are 625 permanent works in the design acquisition stages, design, permitting, construction procurement, and construction, which have FEMA funding allocations exceeding $371.4 million. Meanwhile, 110 reconstruction projects, valued at some $12.2 million, were completed.
The data reflect an increase of 149 more works in execution than those in the quarter from April to June 2023 in the design acquisition phases through construction. Faith-based subrecipients also reported 22 completed projects in addition to those existing in the previous quarter.