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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

COR3 chief praises recovery efforts using FEMA funds

Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera

By The Star Staff

In response to a report published by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3) Executive Director Manuel Laboy Rivera said on Wednesday that, as stated in the aforementioned federal report, the reconstruction of Puerto Rico through the funds allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) continues to advance.

Laboy Rivera acknowledged that the island government faces challenges in the construction sector at the local, federal and global levels.

“Thanks to the efforts of the Pierluisi Administration and the support received from the U.S. Government, reconstruction finally started in this four-year period and the numbers demonstrate the great progress made when compared to December 2020,” the COR3 chief said in a written statement. “We are on pace with disbursements and projects in the construction stage or completed; to say otherwise shows ignorance of the subject. In fact, when we make an equitable comparison, the progress of our reconstruction versus other places such as Louisiana and the Virgin Islands, we are further ahead. The GAO’s own report recognizes the great work this administration has done since 2021.”

“Currently, COR3 has the capacity and internal controls to ensure compliance and transparency in its processes,” Laboy Rivera added. “Because of those controls, COR3 was able to reduce the potential for improper payments between 2018 and 2020 from 9% to 1%, as recognized in the federal document.”

In passing, the executive director pointed out that despite the fact that FEMA’s disbursement process is based on reimbursement, the administration of Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia managed to get FEMA in May 2022 to advance federal obligated money through the Working Capital Advance (WCA) pilot program, which allows government agencies, municipalities and nonprofit entities to obtain up to 75% of the allocation of funds in three phases so that they can execute permanent works as well as risk-mitigation projects, not only under the Hurricane Maria emergency, but also for the earthquake and Fiona disasters.

Through the WCA advances, disbursements rose from $153 million in December 2020 to $2.389 billion as of this month, Laboy Rivera noted.

“If we add the permanent works of Fiona, the total disbursed rises to $2.556 billion for permanent projects,” the official said. “These numbers do not take into account FEMA funds already disbursed from emergency work from 2017 through 2023 totaling another $6 billion, nor funds disbursed by FEMA directly to individuals during Irma, Maria, the earthquakes, COVID and Fiona.”

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