Puerto Rico has to start up its much-needed reconstruction in order to be able to robustly respond to emerging natural, economic and social challenges. Clarity in processes, inclusion and sense of urgency are necessary conditions to lay the foundations of an advanced Puerto Rico.
It has been more than eight months since Hurricane Maria destroyed infrastructure and homes. It is an imperative to create conditions to accelerate reconstruction works.
Third sector organizations, together with the government and the private sector, have a leading role in creating spaces and projects that allow a robust recovery.
Initiatives like the recently announced by the Foundations Network, which will benefit hundreds of families are really valuable. After losing the little they had, many citizens have not been able to receive federal assistance because they do not have property titles. Along with entities such as the Ford Foundation and the Center for Disaster Philantropy, the Foundations Network will contribute $ 300,000 to provide assistance that allows participants to obtain these certifications. This is a wise initiative.
According to data provided by the Access to Justice Fund, it is estimated that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied 80,000 requests for aid due to the lack of property titles. This is a common problem on the island linked to poverty, which involves about half of the population. The lack of federal aid keeps hundreds of homes still with awnings, right at the beginning of the new hurricane season. The alternative for many people is to put insecure patches and maintain the cycle of informal construction, which puts property and lives at risk.
That is why it is urgent to begin with recovery works as soon as possible. The Congress historic allocation to Puerto Rico for such purposes has provided a $ 816,743,200 first disbursement to carry out repairs, housing reconstruction and at-risk communities relocation.
In the first phase of the Network initiative, 1,600 people will receive legal and notarial assistance to obtain the titles. Volunteers from the Law School Legal Clinic and 40 notaries, who will participate pro bono, will visit homes in all municipalities during eight weeks. At the same time, there will be a research to identify durable solutions to recurring problems.
Subsequently, the project headed by the Foundations Network seeks to serve families with more complicated situations, including those where reconstruction entails relocation.
Those communities that are going to be impacted by reconstruction, require initiatives that allow them to reduce the uncertainties inherent in great changes with information and integration channels.
The Puerto Rican Planning Society has stated that communities should know if the funds allocated to reconstruction will benefit them. Their needs must be considered without delaying the start of work.
At the request of the local government, citizens had 14 days to present their comments to the federal government´s plan. 104 comments were received during six hearings and eight community workshops. Some, according to the government, have been included in the recovery plan. Organizations have raised doubts about the translations of the document that should be clarified.
Meanwhile, among recovery initiatives, the planning line allocates $ 37,5 million to a program for communities to develop reconstruction and relocation plans. Throughout the island, many communities –in partnership with the third sector and private sector- have already advanced plans and projects for their development. They seek to mitigate risks and adapt better to climate challenges while generating their own economic opportunities.
Linking these efforts with the government's plans adds to our purpose to promptly promote the construction of a modern, more just and democratic Puerto Rico on the road to development
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