The San Juan Daily Star
Labor leader: No justifiable reason for delays in disaster aid approval for damaged shelter-churches
By The Star Staff
Puerto Rico Police Members Association President Lt. José J. Taboada de Jesús asked Gov. Pedro Pierluisi Urrutia and the legislative leaders on Sunday to order the acceleration and approval of repair projects at the island’s shelters-churches pending in various government agencies, including the facilities and buildings of nonprofit organizations, which he said to date have been forgotten.
“Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on September 16, 2017 and since that date the government of Puerto Rico has been receiving federal money for repairs and projects that seek to mitigate the risks that other disasters may cause,” Taboada de Jesús said. “As recently as September of last year, Hurricane Fiona destroyed many properties, knocked out power to various sectors, and still nothing has been done to repair homes, buildings and shelter facilities. Millions of dollars were sent from Washington to help those affected by the January 2020 earthquake, and they have barely been used.”
The Latino and Puerto Rican community in the mainland United States organized and held a marathon where they managed to collect more than $40 million, of which not a single penny reached the hands of people who still have blue awnings located on their roofs, Taboada de Jesús said, since the money was given to organizations that for the most part were not helping those affected by the hurricanes.
“There is the unusual case in which a weather reporter received close to $300,000 and an artist who does not live in Puerto Rico received almost $2 million [reportedly from the marathon] for matters that had nothing to do with mitigating the damages to the thousands of affected homes,” he said.
“Even the main figure in charge of using the money from the New York marathon has been convicted in court,” Taboada de Jesús said. “If [Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience Executive Director] Manuel Laboy Rivera cannot resolve the problem, the governor must remove him.”
“As recently as a few weeks ago, a group of churches denounced the government’s inaction on the issue of aid,” the police union leader added. “Instead of answering in the affirmative to solve the problem, the head in charge of approving and distributing aid focused on charging that the [church] organization’s spokesperson had a pending case with solar panels, managing to divert attention from his ministerial responsibility to accelerate the rehabilitation of church buildings that are classified as shelters in the event of an atmospheric disaster.”
“We ask Governor Pierluisi to set the responsibilities for … Laboy Rivera, who changes the subject and dispatches with a smile any complaint about the slowness and attention to the thousands of cases pending for the disbursement of approved aid and other aid on the way to approval,” Taboada de Jesús said. “There is no reason for it to take six years for the approval of an inspection of a hurricane- or earthquake-damaged shelter-church.”