United for Puerto Rico Distributes Nearly $38 Million for Relief and Recovery Initiatives

A year after Hurricane María it has awarded funds to 193 nonprofit
organizations impacting 1.5 million people

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico–(BUSINESS WIRE)–#unidosporpuertorico–United for Puerto Rico has awarded $37,980,545.76 in funds to 193
non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to support relief and recovery
efforts for hurricanes Irma and María.

Funds granted as of August 31st have been distributed to five
areas: water and food $3,847,102.00 (10%); social wellbeing
$7,531,286.57 (19.7%); health $8,328,323.24 (22%); economic development
$7,689,265.70 (20%) and the reconstruction and construction of homes
$10,584,568.25 (27%).

“There are three stages in disaster management, relief, recovery and
reconstruction. The United for Puerto Rico model grants funds for the
first two phases to five areas,” according to Aurelio Alemán,
Chairperson for the board of United for Puerto Rico.

The priority for the relief phase is to distribute food, build community
kitchens, provide community outreach health alternatives, distribute
basic supplies, generators and provide social and psychological support
for those dealing with post-traumatic stress. During the second phase,
the strategic support shifts to repairing structures, homes, providing
access to primary health care, and economic development initiatives to
mitigate and respond to hurricanes and activate community efforts
throughout Puerto Rico.

The funds have been distributed throughout all of Puerto Rico’s 78
municipalities and have primarily addressed the most vulnerable groups
in the population: children, women who are heads of households, the
disabled, the elderly, the homeless and small businesses.

“We channeled our aid funds through ONGs that are well aware of the
needs of the populations they serve. Thus, we were able to rapidly
channel aid where it was most needed,” said Mariely Rivera, Executive
Director of United for Puerto Rico.

Lessons

Rivera added that there are numerous lessons learned a year after United
for Puerto Rico came to be. United for Puerto Rico asked the ONGs that
received grants to identify the main lessons and needs in disaster
management and in supporting the recovery phase. They are as follows:

  • Provide for communication alternatives in the communities they serve,
    with government authorities and other ONGs in the region to leverage
    aid efforts.
  • Provide specialized trainings in how to activate volunteers to work in
    disaster recovery efforts.
  • Obtain strategic technical assistance in the design of competitive
    grant proposals and share best practices in managing aid efforts and
    programs.
  • Establish emergency funds to support matching funds required for
    access to some disaster recovery programs.
  • The need to strengthen alliances among ONGs to expand their reach in
    relief and recovery efforts is a recurrent theme among the
    organizations that have been active in disaster management and
    recovery efforts.
  • A serious obstacle to recovery efforts is the lack of property titles
    and the denial of federal aid for this reason. It is an ongoing
    obstacle to recovery that has been addressed through awards for legal
    aid to those who lack property titles. Also, the need to facilitate a
    permit process that is agile to rebuild homes.
  • Community health outreach initiatives are a pressing need,
    particularly for those sectors that were isolated by the hurricanes
    and remained with little or no access to basic services for months.

Communicating aid efforts

Rivera indicated that a parallel effort to the work of grant awards and
monitoring has been the need to communicate these efforts to donors.
More than 95% of the funds came from outside Puerto Rico, from
foundations, individuals and companies.

“To be accountable in a cost-effective manner to our donors, we have
recurred to a monthly news bulletin that is sent to registered donors.
The information is also available at our website and in our Facebook
page,” explained Rivera.

“A year after Hurricane María, we also considered it important that the
people of Puerto Rico be informed of how donations were distributed.
Several media outlets donated their space to include a public
announcement on these efforts.” The ads should be published during the
week of the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria.

As to one of the most important learnings from Hurricane María is that
“we are all much more aware of the needs of our people. The United for
Puerto Rico website has an interactive map of Puerto Rico where you can
see which ONGs are in each municipality and what are the areas that they
work with,” added Rivera. “We have supported nearly 200 ONGs and they
have done an extraordinary job in responding to the disaster in very
difficult conditions,” said Rivera.

About United for Puerto Rico

United for Puerto Rico is a private, nonprofit NGO certified as 501c3
entity by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. It was created after the
Office of the First Lady of Puerto Rico called for members of the
private sector to join in the relief effort after Hurricane Irma struck
Puerto Rico on September 6. After the catastrophic impact of Hurricane
Maria, on September 20, the organization saw the need to formalize and
strengthen its structure as an entity separate from the government ruled
by a board of eleven directors from the private sector. For more
information, please visit
www.unitedforpuertorico.com.

Contacts

United for Puerto Rico
Lourdes Figaredo, R-6; APR, 787-366-0951
lourdesfigaredo@msn.com
or
Lisette
Nuñez, R-449, 787-406-3606
lisette.nunez@gmail.com