• The Star Staff

FPR president rejects allegations of advertising contracts paid for with CDBG-DR funds

By The Star Staff

Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR) President Annie Mayol on Thursday rejected allegations made by Popular Democratic Party (PDP) Sen. Aníbal José Torres and at-large candidate for the island House of Representatives Gabriel López Arrieta in relation to the supposed granting of multi-million-dollar advertising contracts using federal disaster recovery funds.

“We must clarify that the information published is based on inaccurate and incorrect data,” Mayol said in a written statement.

“For us it is extremely important to make it clear that FPR has not received any contract from the government of Puerto Rico for exclusive advertising expenses,” she said. “Rather, we were selected by the Department of Housing to administer and implement the Whole Community Resilience Planning Program (WCRP) with a total budget of $37.5 million that is distributed through a refund process. The functions and responsibilities of FPR with this program include the design of the program, the development of the guidelines, processes and procedures, elaborating the educational component, and orientation and implementation of the program, as well as the distribution of funds, procurement of suppliers and supervision of the selected entities, in collaboration with the Department of Housing.”

Torres and López Arrieta alleged that contracts were financed with Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program funds for promotional and advertising expenses, among other purposes.

“Awarding $60 million in contracts for promotion and advertising, among other things, with CDBG-DR funds, is outrageous,” Torres said Tuesday in a press statement. “While thousands still live under blue awnings, others lack safe housing and there is a loud call by the mayors on the need for recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of their municipalities.”

Torres and López Arrieta alleged that the contracts were awarded by the island Housing Department between 2018 and 2020 with CDBG-DR funds that were assigned to Puerto Rico to invest in the recovery, rehabilitation and reconstruction of the island. Among the contracted companies are FPR for $37.5 million, the destination marketing organization Discover Puerto Rico for $8 million and Tere Suárez for $5 million.

The PDP legislative candidates said their analysis of the contracts shows that the companies are to carry out promotional, advertising and coordination of digital campaigns.

“When we read the contracts we also see that personnel are subcontracted who will bill at the rate of $150 per hour. Furthermore, most of the contracts are for a few months,” López Arrieta said. “Today, the country is witnessing the lack of aid provided by the Department of Housing, which is responsible for managing these funds. They are the ones who can help hundreds of families who still suffer, who have needs. Single mothers, elderly people, boys and girls living under a blue awning. Faced with this scenario, the [Housing] Department’s response is to address issues related to promotion and advertising as a priority. This shows the inability of the government and how priorities are out of order.”

Torres and López Arrieta demanded to know the result of the hiring and how it benefited Puerto Rico residents.

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