FEMA says all Hurricane Maria funds to be disbursed next year

By John McPhaul

All funds allocated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for relief from Hurricane Maria will be disbursed next year, FEMA’s permanent coordinator announced on Tuesday.

The announcement by José Baquero came after a controversy was stirred over the failure to disburse more than half of the allocated funds nearly three years after Hurricane Maria hit the island.

“It has moved by leaps and bounds in the last year. I don’t know if you are aware of the large amount of money that was allocated to Puerto Rico; it is more than what was allocated to Louisiana after Katrina and New York after Sandy combined,” Baquero said in response to questions from the press. “When you compare the [sequence] of those responses in Puerto Rico, well, more progress has been made in Puerto Rico.”

“[The point] is not to sit down and be fanatical about that, it is to improve, keep pushing and looking for ways to be efficient,” he added, assuring that the key is communication between the executive branch of the commonwealth government, the island’s municipalities, Puerto Rico’s Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience, and FEMA.

Baquero said the total funds assigned to the island stand at around $48 billion, of which $17 billion have been disbursed.

“They are already obligated to specific projects and that is a great advance, over 3,000 or so projects in the municipalities,” he said. “The goal is that 70 percent will be required by December and 100 percent will be required by next year.”

Baquero’s statements came after a meeting with Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced on the monitoring of recovery projects following the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria in September 2017.

“This coming weekend is Maria’s third anniversary,” Baquero said. “Basically it is to give you an update on where we are, what is being done, what is being worked on and what the work plans we have for the next six months are.”

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