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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Groups call for close monitoring of how COR3 handles federal disaster funds

Puerto Rico Police Members Association President José J. Taboada de Jesús

By The Star Staff

The Puerto Rico Police Members Association along with members of the María 2017 Civilian Coalition are calling on the island Legislature to investigate the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), accusing it of making arbitrary decisions that are putting federal funds at risk.

The office, headed by Manuel Laboy Rivera, is in charge of distributing federal disaster funds. The COR3 website shows that of the estimated $82.5 billion allocated to Puerto Rico, only $28.2 billion has been disbursed.

“The slowness and failure of employees have put at risk millions of dollars that the federal government earmarked to Puerto Rico, many of them from FEMA and other agencies,” said José J. Taboada de Jesús, president of the Puerto Rico Police Members Association. “Thousands of churches, hundreds of non-profit organizations, and the Puerto Rico Police Members Association itself have been victims of the selective COR3 bureaucracy. In many cases, decisions are unsupported by any law or regulation. In our case, we have been submitting documents over the past five years. Today we found out that our claim rests in a drawer in a desk in the COR3 office.”

“Moreover, we learned that this office -- which is not a government agency -- has worked thousands of cases selectively, withholding information and reports that should have been sent and endorsed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for its corresponding procedure,” Taboada de Jesús added.

He made his remarks to the Puerto Rico Senate, which investigates COR3 compliance with respect to helping in Puerto Rico’s recovery.

“For us it is urgent to attend to the most pressing needs of our communities, municipalities and government entities, and as we approach the sixth anniversary of hurricanes Irma and Maria,” Sen. Javier Aponte Dalmau said.

Taboada de Jesús said the organization’s offices were destroyed by Hurricane Maria and that COR3 has not helped with efforts to move forward with restoration. The organization is seeking $5 million for repairs.

“We are before a government body that destroys instead of facilitates,” he said.

The Fraternity of Pentecostal Councils of Puerto Rico, meanwhile, which brings together some 1,500 congregations, took to the streets to extend help to the communities and to be supportive after the destruction caused by the hurricanes of 2017.

“Out of 3,000 churches, some 1,800 have requested help because they suffered damage, but there are only 10 projects under construction,” said Reverend Moisés Román, president of the Fraternity of Pentecostal Councils. “The churches have felt orphaned with the help available. Yes, there are churches that have received help, but others have been just as persistent and have achieved nothing.”

Iván Casal, adviser and spokesperson for the María 2017 Civil Coalition, said “we are facing the real possibility of having to return or lose billions of dollars allocated for the reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”

“Therefore, the Legislature must give way to creating a regulatory board that can be on the COR3, which includes professionals and experts in the field, including members of the Mayors Association and Federation with representation of the communities,” he said.

The processing of claims should be expedited to help those 3,000 churches, the pending claims of the Police Members Association that serves thousands of members, and people from the community, Casal said.

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