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House approves $78 million in hurricane recovery aid for towns


Speaker of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives Rafael Hernández Montañez

By The Star Staff


The island House of Representatives late last week approved an allocation of $1 million to each of the 78 municipalities to bring direct aid to those most affected after the impact of Hurricane Fiona on Sept. 18.


“We have joined forces and, in a non-partisan effort, approved $78 million for direct aid to all the victims through the municipalities, who have been the first line of response to this emergency,” House Speaker Rafael “Tatito” Hernández Montañez said.


However, dozens of nonprofit organizations won’t have the resources to help the communities most devastated by Fiona since the delegations of the New Progressive Party, Citizen Victory Movement, Puerto Rican Independence Party and the Dignity Project voted against Senate Joint Resolution 300, which assigned $22.5 million to those entities.


“We regret that in an exercise of political pettiness, the minority delegations decided to vote against giving resources to nonprofit organizations that provide direct aid to the citizens most affected by this catastrophe,” Hernández Montañez said.


The lower chamber also endorsed House Resolution 832, which asks President Joe Biden to extend the Major Disaster Declaration he issued to include all 78 municipalities on the island, thus providing more resources from the federal government to combat the devastation caused by Fiona. Late last week, the municipalities of Arecibo, Barceloneta, Cabo Rojo, Loíza, Manatí, Camuy, Guánica, Lajas, and Sabana Grande were added to the declaration list.


Meanwhile, a state of emergency was declared due to the lack of a robust structure for fuel distribution in Puerto Rico. The Department of Consumer Affairs was ordered to prioritize the areas of greatest need, such as hospitals, senior centers, supermarkets, telecommunication towers and pharmacies, to supply them with diesel.


The legislative leader also sent letters to LUMA Energy, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, and the Puerto Rico Aqueduct and Sewer Authority (PRASA), requesting them to submit work plans certified by municipality to restore water and electricity, the number of brigades and equipment assigned for such purposes and the estimated date on which both essential services will be restored. In the case of PRASA, also requested was the logistics plan for delivering electrical and diesel generators to drinking water plants and pumps.

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