A forum on the state of reconstruction of Puerto Rico was held on Monday August 12 at the Centro Europa building, where members and non-members were presented with valuable information by various leaders in energy, economic, and government entities.
Facilitated by PRBA Executive Director Nory Rivera and Vice President Alfredo Martinez-Alvarez, the event’s dynamic was panel-style, with an opportunity for audience members to ask their questions and to enable a conversational atmosphere regarding pertinent information on issues like the delay in CDBG-DR funds, the challenges in rebuilding Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, and different strategies to promote economic investment and development in the island.
Abounding on the subject was the Secretary of the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, Manuel Laboy, to shed light on the hardships faced in recent weeks due to the many changes in political positions and resignations in his very own department. Among many announcements, he announced that they have already selected a candidate for the position of Secretary of Management and Permissions (OGP) as abbreviated in English. The secretary also informed the audience his office is managing around $320 million for the funding of the CDBG-DR program. Laboy indicated that he hopes to open the time for the pre-application process for these funds before October.
In a joint effort, the Department of Housing, the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency (COR3), and the Department of Economic Development and Commerce (DDEC) announced their initiative to facilitate the evaluation of permits, a bureaucratic process in the construction industry that many professionals, members and non-members are dissatisfied with.
Dennis González, sub-secretary of the CDBG-DR program within the Department of Housing, said the recently-inaugurated Home Repair, Reconstruction, or Relocation R3 program can count on $775 million for its function.
“The volume of housing that needs to be reconstructed in Puerto Rico surpasses the amount of funds that are available. We are searching for alternatives, but there is a reality today: there are still families with blue tarps (as their roofs),” said the official.
González also said that the (OGP) and the Junta de Planificación, (JPPR), are working on an administrative order that will facilitate the construction permits process, which will certainly be coming in excessive amounts due to the R3 program and will hopefully be approved by next month.
The Puerto Rico Director of HUD, Efraín Maldonado, said in his presentation that just like any other minority, Puerto Rico has to work double as hard to restore confidence within the American government and receive equal treatment in terms of disaster recovery funds released.
Testimonials were also given by PJ Wilson, Solar & Energy Storage Association of PR President and Eng. Tomás Torres.