The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has published a Federal Register notice (Docket No. FR-6261-N-01) governing the use of $2 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funds for electric power system enhancements and improvements for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands (USVI).
“Today’s announcement is an important step in addressing the recovery and resilience needs of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” said HUD Secretary Marcia L. Fudge. “By opening the door to this $2 billion in funding, HUD is enabling Puerto Rico and the USVI to improve the reliability and resilience of their electrical systems to promote environmental equity and to both withstand the impacts of climate change and contribute less to its causes.”
In 2017, Hurricanes Irma and Maria damaged significant elements of the electricity systems in Puerto Rico and the USVI. Following the hurricanes, five months of repairs were required in order to restore power to the USVI, and approximately 11 months of repairs were needed to restore power to Puerto Rico.
CDBG-DR funds for electrical power system improvements provide a unique and significant opportunity for these grantees to carry out strategic and high-impact activities to address necessary expenses and mitigate disaster risks to their electrical power systems, improve system reliability, resiliency, efficiency, sustainability and address each system's long-term financial viability. HUD seeks to maximize the impact of these CDBG-DR funds by encouraging the formation of public-private partnerships, partnerships with local, community and neighborhood organizations, and through enhanced coordination with other Federal programs.
In the action plan governing the use of these funds, grantees are also required to describe how the funds will be used to address the needs of vulnerable populations, protected classes, and underserved communities; how the funded activities primarily benefit low- and moderate-income persons; and how the planned improvements will be designed and implemented to address the impacts of climate change.
The publication of this notice is the latest in a series of HUD actions under the Biden-Harris Administration to support recovery and renewal in Puerto Rico and the USVI. This includes obligating long-awaited disaster recovery funds and removing onerous restrictions placed on the grants, such as incremental grant obligations, Federal Financial Monitor review, and more. Through Docket No. FR-6261-N-01, 90% of promised funds have been obligated to Puerto Rico.