The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development announced this past week that Puerto Rico would receive $18.5 billion in funding through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program to rebuild after Hurricane Maria. This is largest grant ever awarded by HUD, and it was generated through the work of Associate Professor Chris Emrich, who is developing Puerto Rico’s required impact and unmet needs assessment for HUD.
Emrich recently traveled to the island where he met with the Puerto Rico Housing Authority, HUD and FEMA personnel, representatives from the Department of Economic Development and Commerce, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources, the Economic and Social Planning Program, among others. Much of the funding will be allotted for housing and infrastructure, so during the next few months Emrich will continue to work with these entities to create a recovery action plan that will emphasize sustainability and resiliency. This means bringing existing structures up to code, implementing building codes similar to those in Florida, and ensuring that structures are built with longevity in mind.
Over the long-term, the goal is to rebuild the economy to withstand disasters such as Hurricane Maria, while enabling growth in promising sectors such as IT and biomedicine.