On January 27, 2020, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocated $8.285 billion to the Government of Puerto Rico in Community Development Block Grant Mitigation (CDBG-MIT) funds, and Puerto Rico currently awaits another $1.93 billion in CDBG-DR funding to be allocated specifically for enhancing and improving electrical power infrastructure and systems. CDBG-MIT funds represent a unique and significant opportunity for Puerto Rico to carry out strategic and high-impact activities to mitigate disaster risks and reduce future losses.
Unlike the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds, which have been awarded for hurricane-specific recovery, mitigation dollars can fund projects of a varying nature to serve the Island’s most important mitigation needs, regardless of tie-back to a specific disaster.
What is Mitigation?
Mitigation activities are those that increase resilience to disasters and reduce or eliminate the long-term risk of loss of life, injuries, damage to and/or loss of property, suffering and hardship, by lessening the impact of future disasters. Specific information about eligible mitigation activities, eligible entities, and funding allocations will be stipulated in a separate CDBG-MIT Action Plan. (To learn more about the development of the MIT Action Plan, please refer to content below). At a minimum, all activities funded by CDBG-MIT must meet four basic requirements.
CDBG-MIT Action Plan
As with CDBG-DR, the Puerto Rico Department of Housing (PRDOH) is preparing a separate CDBG-MIT Action Plan, which is due to HUD no later than December 3, 2020. The CDBG-MIT Action Plan is being prepared in compliance with the requirements set forth by HUD in Federal Register Vol. 84, No. 169 (August 30, 2019), 84 FR 45838, and Federal Register Vol. 85 No. 17 (January 27, 2020), 85 FR 4676. In general, those requirements include:
- A Mitigation Needs Assessment, which takes into consideration characteristics and impacts of current and future hazards, and which puts at risk indispensable infrastructure and services.
- Consultation with other jurisdictions, the private sector and other government agencies.
- Consideration of the potential impacts that mitigation activities may have on the seven (7) community lifelines encompassed in the nation-wide planning model set forth by FEMA and adopted by HUD, which include:
- Food, Water, and Shelter
- Health and Medical
- Safety and Security
- Communication accessibility
- Hazardous Material
- Long-term planning and risk mitigation considerations that promote local and regional planning and implementation informed by the Mitigation Needs Assessment.
- Connection of mitigation programs and projects to identified risks.
- Consultation with all affected local governments and public housing authorities.
- Robust citizen participation through the scheduling of at least four (4) public hearings held in different locations throughout the Island and at different times in the planning process.
CDBG-MIT Planning Process & Timelines
PRDOH is coordinating with a variety of stakeholders to ensure community perspective is incorporated into this unprecedented planning effort. This engagement is taking place at a time of many challenges due to the impacts of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. On March 15, 2020, Governor Wanda Vázquez issued executive order OE-2020-023, which strengthened the March 12, 2020 executive order, declaring a state of emergency for Puerto Rico. OE-2020-023 imposed a strict curfew for citizens and local businesses that don’t carry out essential activities.
Furthermore, on March 13, 2020 the President of the United States declared the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic as of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant an emergency declaration for all states, tribes, territories, and the District of Columbia pursuant to section 501 (b) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. 5121-5207 (the “Stafford Act”).
As a result, PRDOH is pursuing the most robust use of technology feasible to engage the public and private sectors while maintaining social distancing. PRDOH will utilize this CDBG-MIT website, electronic communication, social media platforms and traditional media outlets to disseminate information and promote survey participation, in addition to other methods as feasible to support public awareness, education and citizen participation, as the planning process develops.
Citizen participation opportunities through public hearings and formal comments to the CDBG-MIT Action Plan draft will be informed in the future and will be contingent to the status of COVID-19 at that time.