Governor of Puerto Rico receives the secretaries of Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security
(December 19, 2017 - La Fortaleza, San Juan) The governor of Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, met this afternoon with the secretary of the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson; and with the secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, Kirstjen Nielsen, to continue the discussion about the recovery of the Island after the passage of hurricanes Irma and María.
The chief executive took the opportunity to emphasize the delay of the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) in the work of restoring the electrical system.
"The restoration of electric power service is our priority. We need your commitment to accelerate the restoration work of the electrical system and reactivate the economy. We cannot achieve it without energy," reiterated Rosselló during the meeting with the federal officials.
The chief executive said that the lack of materials and inventory are the main causes pointed out by the federal agency for the delay in the repair of the system.
For his part, Carson expressed at the press conference that "we do recognize that the situation is different here than it is in Texas or Florida or in many other places. We are quite willing to look at the regulatory burden and to present appropriate waivers and changes because we want to look at our goals, not at the rules.”
Nielsen added for her part that “the president [of the United States] asked me to come here as one of my first acts. We wanted to show our continuous commitment to all Americans during the disaster recovery and particularly to the very hard-hit communities of Puerto Rico.”
“We have been here since the beginning, we have been here before the storm. We are here now. We will be here with you during the recovery. We will not rest until the families here are back in their repaired homes, until parents are back at work, children are back at school, and communities are back to life,” the National Security secretary assured.
The governor emphasized that, although it is necessary to rebuild in a resilient way, “it also has to be done in a smart and diligent way.”
"You need to have flexibility in this and recognize that Puerto Ricans are American citizens and that they need fair treatment,” he added.
Additionally, it was agreed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Government of Puerto Rico could collaborate so that Section 428 of the Stafford Act allows for flexibility in use; as well as in the funds of the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG).
Section 428 allows for a damage analysis and works as an allocation of block funds with more flexibility than the usual FEMA procedure.
During the meeting, the urgency of expediting protocols en route to the recovery of the Island and the need to eliminate the red tape—which contributes to a more bureaucratic process—was also emphasized.
Both secretaries indicated that they want to ensure fair treatment in the allocation of funds so that Puerto Rico is a place where its residents can and want to return.
Given this, they committed to treating the Island in a fair and equitable manner in the distribution of funds for the supplementary aid bill for recovery, while recognizing that Puerto Ricans are American citizens who must have equal treatment as the residents of the continental United States.