FEMA offers alternative solutions for evolving community needs in Puerto Rico

February 16, 2024

FEMA provides flexible project options for municipalities

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has offered options for alternate or improved projects to better align with the changing realities of municipalities.

This approach is vividly demonstrated in Orocovis and Yabucoa, where two projects have been initiated with a total funding of nearly $5.2 million.

Under the Public Assistance program by FEMA, an alternate project allows applicants to forego restoring a facility’s pre-disaster function in favor of a different project that benefits the same community.

Conversely, an improved project enhances or modifies the pre-disaster design while maintaining the original function.

FEMA’s commitment to practical solutions

José G. Baquero, FEMA’s Federal Disaster Recovery Coordinator, emphasized the agency’s dedication to practical solutions tailored to the unique circumstances of each municipality: “These projects show that our agency is focused and committed to achieving the most practical solutions for the particular situations of the municipalities and their communities.

“Likewise, we emphasize the importance that these works comply with established requirements and standards to withstand future disasters.”

Innovative projects in Orocovis and Yabucoa

In Orocovis, an alternate project involves the transformation of a former Head Start center into a batting cage within the Arnaldo Hernández Sports Complex.

This initiative, costing nearly $953,200, aims to benefit around 150 families by promoting sports among youth.

Marlon Meléndez Ayala, the municipality’s Planning director, shared: “The complex has several areas, and it will now have a batting field, an alternative to improve the batting skills of our children and youths.”

The project is currently in the design and auction planning stages, including demolition, site preparation, and the installation of a multi-lane batting cage netting system, among other enhancements.

In Yabucoa, an improved project has allocated over $4.2 million to the Diagnostic and Treatment Center (CDT), focusing on updates that ensure compliance with current building codes for patient, staff, and medical faculty safety.

Mariángela Alvarado Soto, the center’s administrator, highlighted the importance of an efficient, productive work environment and the facility’s role in emergencies.

FEMA and COR3’s ongoing support

FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) has played a crucial role in updating building codes in Puerto Rico, with substantial funds obligated for this purpose.

Manuel A. Laboy Rivera, executive director of COR3, stated: “As part of our commitment at COR3, we continuously guide the subrecipients on the process involved in the development of alternate or improved projects with the purpose of maximizing the use of funds allocated by FEMA, according to the need of the communities.”

To date, FEMA has obligated nearly $31.9 billion for over 10,900 recovery projects in Puerto Rico, following Hurricane María, demonstrating a significant investment in the island’s recovery and resilience.

FSJA Comment

The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s innovative approach to disaster recovery in Puerto Rico underscores a flexible and adaptive strategy in the face of evolving community needs.

By offering alternate and improved project options, FEMA facilitates tailored solutions that reflect the unique circumstances of each municipality, and ensure these initiatives are resilient against future disasters.

This approach, exemplified in Orocovis and Yabucoa, illustrates a commitment to rebuilding efforts that go beyond mere restoration, aiming instead for enhancement and improvement of community facilities.

As Puerto Rico continues to rebuild from the devastation of Hurricane María, the collaboration between FEMA, COR3, and local municipalities serves as a model for disaster recovery and mitigation efforts worldwide.

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