Large share of $600 million FEMA allocation targets quake-hit muni facilities
By The Star Staff
Public housing, police operations centers, child care centers and libraries are some of the municipal buildings that will be repaired with a multi-million dollar allocation from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
As reported by the federal agency, of the $600 million, $309 million are for some 488 permanent construction projects that include other structures that suffered damage from the earthquakes that impacted towns across southern Puerto Rico in early 2020.
“With these funds, the municipalities have the opportunity to renovate their affected spaces to once again offer services in their communities,” said José G. Baquero, FEMA’s federal coordinator for disaster recovery in Puerto Rico. “The recovery supports a better quality of life for the residents of these municipalities and the reconstruction is aimed toward that end.”
The funds for the municipalities in the southern, central and western parts of the island cover seven public housing projects in Guánica and Ponce. Public Housing Administration chief Alejandro Salgado Colón noted that more than 2,300 people will have better and safer homes once the repairs are completed with the allocated funds.
“After the earthquakes that mostly shook the southern region of the island, we have looked for alternatives to continue dealing with the damage that put the safe roofs of the affected families at risk. Certainly, this obligation of funds represents one more step toward achieving recovery from the disaster,” Salgado Colón said. “There is still a long way to go, but we are sure that, with the collaboration of federal agencies, we will achieve total reconstruction for the benefit of our residents.”
One of the affected structures was the Montalva Community Center in the hard-hit coastal town of Guánica in the island’s southwest. The tasks to be carried out with an award of $779,000 include the demolition of the center, where, after reconstruction, workshops and other social and community development activities can be held.
Guánica Mayor Ismael Rodríguez Ramos said “the Montalva Community Center has been a multipurpose center that has served the community for impactful social activities.”
“With this assignment we are going to rebuild a facility that serves all generations of Guaniqueños, the youngest with workshops that promote their development, as well as our older adults, being a meeting and welcome place that serves them in various ways,” the mayor said.
The repairs also consider public and community service spaces, as is the case with some centers that serve the more than 22,000 residents of neighboring Lajas. Funds were allocated there for the mayor’s office and the center where the municipal police station and the Municipal Emergency Management Office are located. In addition, arrangements will be completed at the Multiple Services Center for the Elderly, which has an enrollment of more than 90 people and provides meals and activities for bedridden people.