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Rockefeller, Open Society, and Ford Foundations Announce Efforts to Help Puerto Rico Rebound and Rebuild

Working with Puerto Rico’s Philanthropic, Business, Government, and NGO Sectors, Local Leaders Will Create Blueprint for a Long-Term, Resilient and Equitable Recovery

Modeled After Hurricane Sandy Commission, Independent “Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission” Will Bring Together Local, National and International Experts

Foundations Will Support Efforts to Strengthen the Capacity of Island-Based Non-Profit Organizations – Through the Red De Fundaciones (Network of Puerto Rico Foundations)

SAN JUAN, PR—As Puerto Rico recovers from the devastation of Hurricane Maria, The Rockefeller Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation announced today a joint effort to help Puerto Rico rebuild as a stronger, more resilient island on a path to a sound future. In addition to financial resources totaling approximately $5 million, the foundations pledge their joint expertise in helping disaster-affected communities rebuild in a more resilient and equitable way.

The new effort will include three initiatives: create a “Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission,” which will build on successes and lessons learned after Hurricane Katrina and Superstorm Sandy; provide support, through La Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico (The Network of Puerto Rico Foundations), and capacity building for local philanthropies and NGOs, recognizing the vital importance of the nonprofit sector on the road to equitable recovery; and an assessment of the damage caused by Hurricane Maria.

These efforts are designed to create an understanding of the destruction caused by the storm in order to maximize federal recovery funds and develop a rebuilding plan to promote the island’s future resilience. The foundations, all of whom have been funding work in Puerto Rico in recent years, expect to commit more financial resources over the long term after an initial commitment of approximately $5 million.

“This storm has been a humanitarian disaster for the people of Puerto Rico, but from this misery rises an opportunity to build things back better than before,” said Rajiv Shah, President of The Rockefeller Foundation. “With the leadership and expertise of local stakeholders, we can put forward a vision for the island that improves the lives of its citizens in both good times, and bad.”

“The hurricane that pummeled Puerto Rico this fall inflicted devastating damage that will take years to recover from,” said Patrick Gaspard, Vice President of the Open Society Foundations. “Times of crisis test civil society’s ability to help fill the gaps left by what government and the corporate sector can do. I am pleased to partner with our friends and colleagues at the Ford and Rockefeller Foundations – and the Center for a New Economy, our grantee on the island for the past several years – to help contribute to a faster and more equitable recovery, and an island-led effort to create a brighter future for all Puerto Ricans.”

“We continue to see how deep patterns of inequality reinforce and exacerbate the physical damage from natural disasters. So it’s imperative to learn from successes and mistakes elsewhere to ensure a transformative recovery for the people of Puerto Rico,” said Darren Walker, President of the Ford Foundation. “Ford is proud to be part of this critical effort and mindful that this is a long-term proposition to ensure that recovery is led by Puerto Ricans, including those most affected by this tragedy.”

“Foundations in Puerto Rico welcome this partnership that promises to strengthen the capacity of the nonprofit sector on the island and advance the island’s recovery after Hurricane Maria,” said Janice Petrovich, executive director and vice president at La Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico.  “We have seen the value of foundation collaborations in places like New Orleans and Detroit, and believe that this joint investment and knowledge-sharing will help move Puerto Rico forward more wisely and expeditiously.”

Creation of the “Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission”

Led by prominent co-chairs, the “Resilient Puerto Rico Advisory Commission” (RPRAC) will work to develop a long-term strategy for effectively leveraging, deploying and aligning private, philanthropic, local government and federal recovery dollars. The goal is not only to repair the critical systems devastated by Hurricane Maria, but to rebuild in a way that makes the island physically, economically, and socially resilient in the long run.

The commission will develop a report and strategy, to be released in March, that will identify concrete projects and initiatives to make the best use of federal relief and recovery funds and better prepare the island for future challenges. The report will be created through a deep engagement with local communities, NGOs, philanthropies, the private sector, governments, academia, members of the Puerto Rican diaspora, and others. The commission will have approximately 25 members.

Four co-chairs have been named:

  • Miguel A. Soto-Class, Founder and President, Center for a New Economy
  • Richard Carrión, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Popular, Inc.
  • Ana García-Blanco, Executive Director, El Instituto Nueva Escuela
  • Carmen Concepción Rodríguez, Chair of the Department of Planning, La Universidad de Puerto Rico

Support for local philanthropies and NGOs through La Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico (Network of Puerto Rico Foundations):

As past recovery efforts have demonstrated in the Gulf Coast, Northeast and other regions, national foundations can play a critical role in strengthening the capacity of vital nonprofit organizations in Puerto Rico. This includes the development of aligned agenda setting, policy dialogue, and grantmaking strategies designed to advance equity, inclusion and resilience as hallmarks of the island’s recovery and redevelopment. Long-term investments in the island’s social-justice and nonprofit infrastructure will require sustained local philanthropic partnerships to foster catalytic investments in local leaders, organizations and networks. They need to be capable of shaping the island’s recovery policy, planning and spending priorities and ensuring transparency and accountability in redevelopment efforts. As a key first step, the three national foundations will jointly invest in La Red de Fundaciones de Puerto Rico’s pooled fund, Fondo Adelante, as well as La Red’s core operations and staffing – to strengthen the network’s coordination, strategic grantmaking and communications capacity.

Funding for damage assessment efforts:

To accurately assess the storm’s damage and ascertain the right amount of federal disaster assistance essential for Puerto Rico’s recovery, this effort will fund technical support to help the island develop a comprehensive damage assessment. Using technical experts and working with Puerto Rican businesses, nonprofits and other leaders across the island, the commonwealth will determine the costs of rebuilding. A federal disaster assistance package, based on realities on the ground, can help Puerto Rico stabilize its economy and put it on a path toward shared and sustained economic growth.

The work will assess the damage to Puerto Rico’s housing supply, critical capital infrastructure – such as the electrical, water and telecommunications systems, roads and bridges – and social infrastructure, such as schools and hospitals.  This process will provide the residents of Puerto Rico the chance to provide an accurate and complete report of the damage to Congress and federal agencies as they develop future aid packages.

Governor Rossello released a draft version of the report earlier this week, in Washington, D.C.