The third sector demands greater agility in post-Hurricane Maria recovery efforts
In order to present a real perspective of the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, Foundation for Puerto Rico (FPR), Oxfam America, the UPR Resiliency Law Center and the Fundación Fondo de Acceso a la Justicia (FFAJ) met with Rear Admiral Peter J. Brown, the White House Special Representative for Puerto Rico. The meeting came about as an initiative of these nonprofit organizations to promote a transparent, responsible, equitable and effective use of federal funds in Puerto Rico.
Three years after Hurricane Maria, the third sector continues to work on the recovery process. Through the facilitation of emergency response and coordination of recovery initiatives, these organizations are working tirelessly to assist and meet the basic needs of communities on the island.
During the meeting, the organizations presented the challenges still faced by the sectors they work with and possible solutions. FPR emphasized the importance of having more nonprofit organizations participate in the implementation of reconstruction programs and that the federal government continues to seek alternatives to reduce the government bureaucracy that has delayed the flow of federal funds to the island, thus limiting the capacity of those who can access them due to the reimbursement mechanism.
The FFAJ, which aims to provide civil legal services to low-income individuals and communities, presented the challenges identified by organizations that provide legal assistance to disaster survivors, the countless obstacles faced by Puerto Ricans to access proper aid, and provided a report with recommendations for FEMA on the creation of guidelines, policies, and their implementation in past and future disasters.
“Although our attorneys continue to offer free legal services, it is essential that FEMA improve its procedures so that people receive the aid they so desperately need and to which they are entitled,” she said.
Also, the UPR Resiliency Law Center emphasized on the University of Puerto Rico’s capacity to provide these recovery services, and the need to continue providing the necessary tools so that nonprofit organizations and Puerto Rican entrepreneurs can obtain contracts to work on the reconstruction efforts.
Oxfam America, an international nonprofit organization that seeks to eliminate the barriers that make it difficult for Puerto Rican organizations and businesses to access recovery and mitigation funds, proposed the creation of an independent group of citizens representing different sectors of civil society to oversee the allocated funds.
“I appreciate the initiative of the Foundation for Puerto Rico, in uniting the voices of the nonprofit organizations and the advocacy community, to together bring to my attention the existing needs that delay a full recovery in Puerto Rico, as well as their recommendations on how to achieve it,” said Rear Admiral Brown at the conclusion of the meeting, which served to keep the doors open to continue the dialogue around the recovery of the island.