Reps. García, Espaillat, and Velázquez Introduce Bill to Create Local Accountability in the Puerto Rican Recovery Process

December 17, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC — Today Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), and Nydia Velázquez (NY-07) introduced the Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act, a bill that strengthens transparency and oversight of federal recovery efforts in Puerto Rico by establishing a Civil Society Task Force to ensure Puerto Ricans have a seat at the table in the decisions about recovery efforts. The Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act:

  • Strengthens transparency and local oversight of recovery efforts and facilitates local participation in contracting and decision making. Establishes a 13-member Civil Society Task Force elected from different sectors of Puerto Rican society including local government, communities, foundations, business, labor and higher education.

  • Appoints a representative from the Civil Society Task Force within each recovery agency—including FEMA, HUD, the Puerto Rican Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office and the Puerto Rico Housing Department—to oversee agency work and promote equity and inclusion.

“More than three years after Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, the island is still devastated, and Puerto Rican voices have been shut out of the federal recovery process. I’m introducing the Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act to enable the people of Puerto Rico to provide input into the recovery process and hold relief agencies accountable,” said Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García. “Ingenuity, resourcefulness, and mutual aid already exist in Puerto Rico’s communities—it’s past time for the federal government to include local people and help the island recover. This bill is a big step in the right direction.”

“The Trump administration’s failed response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma and their destructive impact on Puerto Rico illustrated how valuable local input would be to relief efforts following natural disasters. Programs rolled out by this administration have continuously faced shortcomings that remain evident, as thousands on the island are still without homes, stable electricity access, and jobs,” said Congressman Adriano Espaillat. “The Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act ensures that local communities have input, equity, and elevated transparency when it comes to the implementation of federal disaster relief programs. Ensuring local engagement at the decision-making table when addressing federal disaster relief ensures affected communities have a voice and are no longer excluded on the decisions that impact them directly.”

“Without the full force of a robust federal recovery for Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria and recent earthquakes, local nonprofits and recovery groups on the Island have had to take matters into their own hands. I thank Representatives García and Espaillat for spearheading this legislation that would elevate and empower these organizations to better coordinate and complement the federal response, ensure a just recovery, and bring transparency to the process,” said Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez.

“Local people must be included and empowered in the use of federal recovery funds. There is nothing more powerful or effective to secure transparency and ensure that federal dollars really meet people’s needs – than to give voice to community leaders. They know best what they need, and in Oxfam’s experience around the world, they are by far the most effective and reliable voices pressing for good governance and accountability.  We are grateful to Rep. Chuy García and Rep. Adriano Espaillat for listening to civil society in Puerto Rico and working with us to develop this extraordinary Bill.  The ultimate objective is to put community leaders in the driver’s seat as key players, fully engaged and empowered, to ensure the right federal recovery dollar decisions are made, and the people of Puerto Rico begin to really see and feel the effects of effective and equitable recovery investments. It is time!” expressed Adi G. Martínez-Román, Senior Policy Analyst for Puerto Rico in Oxfam America. 

“This bill is about transparency and accountability but above all else it provides a mechanism by which those impacted have the ability to be involved in the decision-making process. Additionally, the bill calls on decentralizing federal recovery spending decisions as a means of ensuring efficiencies to a reconstruction process that has been excruciatingly slow. Rep. García's introduction of this bill demonstrates his commitment to an equitable recovery for the people of Puerto Rico and the Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC) of Chicago has been honored to work alongside our representative on this bill" expressed Melissa Mark Viverito, Chief Policy Officer, Puerto Rican Cultural Center

"This bill represents the first attempt in history by the US Congress to allow the Puerto Rican civil society a participation in federal funding. The Puerto Rican Agenda congratulates our Congressman, Jesus 'Chuy' Garcia for taking the lead in this historic action." said Jessie Fuentes, Co-Chair of the Puerto Rican Agenda

"Power 4 Puerto Rico is proud to support the Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act introduced by our friend, Congressman Jesús 'Chuy' García (D-IL). This legislation provides a much-needed framework for communities affected by the deadliest hurricane and longest power blackout in U.S. history. Puerto Ricans must be the drivers of their own recovery process and this bill goes a long way in ensuring not only the participation of those directly affected but also in holding both the U.S. and Puerto Rico governments accountable for the reconstruction investments that should help the Island thrive again. Thanks to our partners at Oxfam America and others for designing a means for a just recovery. We look forward to working together to advance this critical piece of legislation," said Power 4 Puerto Rico Director Erica González.

This bill was endorsed by dozens of organizations including: Oxfam America; The Puerto Rican Cultural Center (PRCC); Red por los Derechos de la Niñez y la Juventud; ESCAPE; Cooperativa Agroecológica Montessori (CoopAM), Caguas, Puerto Rico; VAMOS Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico Science, Technology and Research Trust (PRSTRT); Impacto Juventud Inc. GC; Unión de Trabajadores de la Industria Eléctrica y Riego (UTIER); National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities; Firmes, Unidos y Resilientes con la Abogacía, Inc.; Consejo de Residentes Residencial Luis Llorens Torres, Sector Youth Center; Apoyo Legal al Emprendimiento Comunitario, Inc. (ALECI); Alianza for Progress; Sembrado Sentido; Boricuas Unidos en la Diáspora (BUDPR); Resiliency Law Center, UPR Law School; Power 4 Puerto Rico; Puerto Rico por el Derecho a una Vivienda Digna (PRODEV); Organización Pro Ambiente Sustentable; Hispanic Housing Development Corporation (HHDC); Voz Activa, Inc.; Cooperativa de Ahorro y Crédito de Rincón; Surfrider Foundation Rincón; Nuestra Escuela, Inc.; Universities Space Research Association (USRA); Fundación Comunitaria de Puerto Rico; Renacer Social Corp.; Puerto Rican Police Association in Chicago; and The National Puerto Rican Agenda.

A copy of the bill can be found here.