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Wed Feb 24, 2021, 03:30 AM

The success of Puerto Rico's recovery depends on transparency and input from its people

Finally, three and a half years after Hurricane María’s destruction in Puerto Rico, a year of continuous earthquakes and the COVID-19 pandemic, hurricane recovery funds have been released by the Biden administration. Now there is hope that needed aid will flow with more ease.

Yet, amid so many debates about federal and territorial governments’ failures and challenges to promote recovery on the island, it is clear that by merely releasing funds or assigning additional monies will not result in crucial efficiency, transparency and resiliency. In order to “build back better,” jump-start the island’s stalled recovery and aid its faltering economy, we should shine the light of transparency into funding and rebuilding, inviting civil society into the planning and decision-making processes.

Currently, only 27 percent ($18 billion out of $67 billion) of the money allocated for all post-2017 disasters have been disbursed, and it is possible to see that this small percentage has not been efficiently spent. Only half of individual and family recovery management cases have been addressed; only a quarter of the applications for home reconstruction have been processed; and only 258 homes have been repaired; and only two rebuilt. Contracts mostly have been given to outside consultants and contractors, and therefore have not helped local economy to recover or build capacity to face future disasters.

Large contracts for planning and management have been awarded to big mainland firms such as Horne ($122.5 million from the Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief program) and ICF International ($188 million of FEMA funds). They frequently rely on local officials’ and organizations’ expertise and work to execute their duties. But they don’t stimulate local entities’ growth or capacity-building, because they are not formally engaged or remunerated.

Read more: https://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article249426190.html

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