FEMA allocates over $810 million in earthquake response
For earthquake-struck municipalities in southern Puerto Rico, funds allocated to date by the Federal Emergency Management Agency represent about $45.6 million for permanent works distributed among more than 200 projects.
By THE STAR STAFF
Since the 2020 earthquakes, which mainly affected towns in the south of Puerto Rico, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has allocated over $810 million for the region, the agency announced Wednesday in a press release.
The funds correspond to some 750 projects, mostly for permanent works such as the reconstruction of public buildings, educational institutions and other spaces in the communities.
For the affected municipalities, the allocations represent about $45.6 million for permanent works distributed in more than 200 projects. The funds will help fuel the revitalization of the region as the long-term recovery continues, FEMA said.
“As part of the efforts to mitigate earthquake effects, 84 percent of the projects include funds for this purpose,” Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator José G. Baquero said. “The recovery represents an opportunity to build back better, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to help make this happen.”
Dr. Víctor Huérfano, director of the Puerto Rico Seismic Network, likewise emphasized the progress made after the earthquakes and added that “in cooperation with the U.S. Geological Survey, we are working to have an updated map.”
“That map is very important, because future structures that carry earthquake-resistant construction codes will depend on that map,” he said. “And of course, that this restructuring that we are going to do — which has to be done well — meets the standards and that we do not have to relive those problems of 2020 or before 1918, when structures also fell.”
Among the most notable projects in the south is Guánica City Hall, which has an obligation of over $4.1 million from FEMA to demolish, dispose of and replace its facilities. Of that amount, about $1 million goes toward reinforcing the floors and roof, as well as anchoring equipment to the roof to withstand high-velocity winds.
Regarding the work in the town, Guánica Mayor Ismael Rodríguez Ramos said the demolition of the structure will take place between now and February. He added that the new city hall will have “some commercial spaces in combination with an activity center … for which we are preparing the design.”
Meanwhile, the Ponce Campus of the University of Puerto Rico received an allocation of nearly $716,700 to repair several of its buildings: the Adelina Coppin Alvarado Library, the Ruth Fortuño de Calzada academic building, and the Dean of Student Affairs building, among others. Some work has already been completed on several of the structures, such as the plastering of walls, replacement of tiles and a geotechnical assessment of the latter building.
The southern region of the island also has several structures of historical and cultural value that were impacted by the earthquakes. FEMA’s Environmental and Historic Preservation Division has worked closely with applicants from the Public Assistance Program to ensure that those projects meet current historic and environmental preservation requirements.
The La Resurrección methodist church in Ponce, built in 1907 and part of the National Register of Historic Places, is one of those projects that has received allocations that seek to preserve historical and cultural value. In addition to repairing existing features, its FEMA-funded restoration includes carbon fiber and fiberglass-reinforced polymers that were added to the mortar and plaster inside the building to make it more resilient against future seismic events, all without adversely affecting the historical property.
“Certainly the church community, but also the city community, will be positively impacted and one of the most precious historical monuments of the urban area of Ponce will come back to life,” the church’s pastor, Jeancarlos Ortiz Peña, said regarding the importance of restoring the century-plus-old structure.