SAN JUAN, PR -- Tropical Storm Otto’s rains, flooding, mudslides, and landslides in Puerto Rico which occurred on October 4-8, 2010, set off the activation of state and municipal emergency services, damaged roads, bridges, public buildings, left lots of debris, and triggered a state emergency declaration. Shortly after, on October 26, 2010 a Presidential disaster declaration was granted to supplement the recovery efforts.
"This federal disaster declaration opens the door to help state and seventeen municipal governments rebuild their infrastructure and facilitate a swift recovery of vital public facilities and services. This will bring about a positive effect in the communities located within the disaster-declared areas, as well," explained Justo Hernández, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO).
The seventeen municipalities of Puerto Rico that were included in the Presidential disaster declaration are Aibonito, Añasco, Guánica, Guayama, Jayuya, Lares, Las Marías, Maricao, Mayagüez, Patillas, Ponce, Sabana Grande, Salinas, San Germán, Utuado, Yabucoa, and Yauco.
As a result, FEMA’s Public Assistance (Infrastructure) and Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) are now available to help state and local governments for disaster-related repairs and replacements, reduce future damages, and minimize repetitive losses. The grants application process takes place through a partnership between FEMA, state and local officials.
“Although our office administers FEMA’s grants, both state and municipal government work together, starting with the Applicants Briefing which sets in motion the application process, during projects monitoring activities, the disbursement of funds, and through the projects closeout,” said Maria Sánchez Bras, Puerto Rico Governor’s Authorized Representative (GAR).
FEMA’s Public Assistance (Infrastructure) grants reimburse state and municipal government the cost of eligible emergency protective measures, debris removal, and can fund the repair, restoration, reconstruction or replacement of public infrastructure such as roads and bridges, water control facilities, public buildings and contents, public utilities and parks, and other recreational facilities damaged during a disaster. Some non-profit organizations may qualify for aid to restore certain types of facilities that include educational, utility, emergency, medical, custodial care, and other facilities that provide essential government types of services.
FEMA’s HMGP identifies the most useful and cost effective local or state government hazard mitigation programs or projects which will be effective in preventing or reducing damages in future natural disasters. Those projects may include flood-proofing; rebuilding or strengthening structures; building bigger culverts, redesigning bridges to sustain greater water flows, or upgrade utilities, such as the underground of power lines.
FEMA's Public Assistance (Infrastructure) and HMGP grants reimburse 75 percent of the project’s eligible costs while the Government of Puerto Rico and/or local governments contribute the 25 percent non-federal share.