WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today announced the release of a federal action plan ordered by President Clinton for the long-term recovery of families and communities in Puerto Rico affected by Hurricane Georges.
FEMA Director James Lee Witt said the strategy was developed by the President's Long-Term Recovery Task Force. "The federal family has joined with the Government of Puerto Rico in a common bond to avoid a repeat of the extreme hardships endured by individuals, families and business owners as a result of Hurricane Georges," said Witt, who led the task force. "By taking these actions, we will be moving closer to achieving our goal of rebuilding sustainable and disaster-resistant communities for the future."
The report, presented to Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossell? by President Clinton in a meeting yesterday, concentrates on federal recovery efforts in five major areas: housing, mitigation, economic revitalization and sustainability, transportation and infrastructure.
The long-term recovery priorities are:
- Housing: Repair existing homes, address long-term shelter needs, replace destroyed homes, restore public housing and provide technical assistance and training in rebuilding smarter, safer and stronger.
- Mitigation: Incorporate mitigation into all aspects of the recovery process. Three general areas of emphasis are strengthening building codes, improving planning and coordination, and improving floodplain management.
- Economic Revitalization and Sustainability: For agriculture, provide financial assistance for crop and physical losses, expand agricultural insurance coverage and provide financial and technical assistance for conservation measures to reduce flooding and erosion. For non-agriculture, provide community development planning assistance to more effectively implement long-term recovery, support small business recovery, encourage new investment and promote flood insurance coverage for homeowners, renters and businesses.
- Energy: Provide resources to repair transmission and distribution lines and recommend design improvements for these factors, provide emergency generators to have in place when the next disaster strikes and provide technical assistance and guidance for developing a more reliable electrical system.
- Transportation and Infrastructure: Continue to provide for repair of damaged roads and bridges, develop a reliable power source for the San Juan mass transit "Tren Urbano" project and dredge harbors to maintain safe channels.
The Action Plan includes 57 specific actions that federal departments and agencies are implementing to do everything under their legal authorities to facilitate a well-coordinated and rapid recovery. Examples of actions that go beyond the types of assistance normally provided include the following:
- FEMA extended three times the time period during which Puerto Rico received emergency direct federal assistance at 100 percent federal funding. Extensions such as these are rare and are made only when a disaster results in extraordinary emergency needs.
- FEMA increased the maximum amount of grants for home repairs provided under its Disaster Housing Assistance program from $10,000 to $25,000 per home.
- FEMA, through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), is providing funding equal to 15 percent of FEMA's estimated total disaster costs for Hurricane Georges. The Government of Puerto Rico has made the "New Safe Housing Program" a priority for the allocat...