One year after Hurricanes Irma and Maria ripped through Puerto Rico, much is still being done to rebuild and revitalize the communities that suffered from the storms.
The storm itself was bad enough, but the suffering was compounded by what many informed observers are calling the “most criminally incompetent disaster response of the past 50 years“, which resulted in thousands of unnecessary deaths.
But, despite the appalling lack of leadership—and overt undermining of support—from the White House, many federal agencies have done their best to help with extremely limited resources.
One of them is the U.S. Economic Development Administration (EDA) has contributed by making several recent FY18 Disaster Supplemental investments in Puerto Rico to support technical assistance, entrepreneurial programs, manufacturing, tourism, and research and development. These grants are projected to save or create over 1200 jobs.
- On July 5, the Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company received a $1.6 million EDA grant to establish an entrepreneurial program that will deliver technical assistance and support through centers located in San Juan, Ponce, and Mayagüez, further helping these communities recover after last year’s devastating hurricane season.
- According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to help create 30 new businesses and 90 new jobs. Through this investment, entrepreneurs and existing small and medium-sized businesses will be provided with co-working space, access to shared services, business training and technical assistance, as well as support in the development and commercialization of new products and services.
- On August 28, the Foundation for Puerto Rico received a $5.58 million EDA grant to support recovery efforts for towns and cities that were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to create 24 jobs and retain 432 jobs.
- This project will support long-term recovery planning for six regions in Puerto Rico outside metropolitan San Juan, helping to provide access to potable water, support water quality testing, provide alternative energy sources, and access to telecommunications equipment. Moreover, the project will procure technical assistance to create a Destination Plan for each region, build the capacity of existing small and medium size businesses, assist with the creation of new tourism-related businesses, as well as arrange workshops promoting business continuity and preparedness.
- On August 15, the Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust received a $4.4 million EDA grant to construct a 30,000 square-foot building called The Forward Center, which will house up to 60 technology startups and a manufacturing company that researches and develops prototype activity of neuro-modulator medical devices.
- According to grantee estimates, the project is expected to create 687 jobs.
- Also on August 15, the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez received a $500,000 EDA grant to design and conduct capacity-building workshops, providing specialized development assistance.
- This project will serve at least 78 municipalities, non-profits, and government entities currently engaged with business recovery efforts.
In response to recent grants made, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said, “The economic crisis of more than a decade that Puerto Rico has undergone was undoubtedly exacerbated by the impact of two contiguous hurricanes, Irma and Maria. These resources will provide the necessary tools to our entrepreneurial merchants to strengthen our economy and make it prosperous.”
September 23, 2017 photo of Puerto Rican village destroyed by Hurricane Maria courtesy of U.S. Customs and Border Protection.