A Road to Recovery: A Look Back at 2017, Hurricanes Irma & Maria

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Puerto Rico is not new to hurricanes. Between 1867 and 2022, Puerto Rico has been directly impacted by 32 hurricanes, including 9 major hurricanes above category 3. On September 18, 2022, two days before the fifth anniversary of Maria, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico. Like Maria, Fiona caused devastating flooding, landslides, and power outages, leaving millions of residents in the dark. Numerous roads and bridges were wiped out making it difficult for emergency response services to get to those in need.

Tidal Basin is not new to hurricanes either. With over 100 employees and numerous teaming partners located across the island, Tidal Basin moved quickly to confirm the team’s safety and well-being and is talking with our clients to offer assistance with recovery efforts from Fiona.

For years Tidal Basin has been committed to helping Puerto Rico recover and become more resilient to future disasters.

Five years ago in September 2017, Puerto Rico was struck by two major hurricanes in quick succession: first Hurricane Irma, a category 4 storm, followed by Hurricane Maria, a category 5 storm. The strong winds and heavy rains coupled with the island’s mountainous terrain created wind tunnels and flash flooding, leaving widespread destruction in its wake. 

Prior to 2017, Tidal Basin and its sister company, Adjusters International, had a presence on the island, but after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, the company knew it had to invest in the proper infrastructure and resources, including local people who understood the island, to help with the massive recovery efforts that were on the horizon. Tidal Basin Caribe, LLC (TBC), was created to provide specialized recovery services in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean, and on March 1, 2018, TBC officially opened its doors. Since then, TBC has been a leading emergency and disaster management consulting partner in the Caribbean, actively supporting temporary and permanent housing, infrastructure, mitigation, and resiliency programs for financial and physical recovery.

“What sets Tidal Basin Caribe apart is that we are a local company with depth and expertise – backed by the support and resources of our sister company, Tidal Basin Holdings, LLC, and our parent company, Rising Phoenix Holdings Corporation,” said Carlos J. Castillo, Senior Vice President and Chief Development Officer at Tidal Basin. “The Tidal Basin Caribe team lives and works in Puerto Rico and combined, have over 40 years of public service on the island. Our staff, comprised of local talent, has been assisting Commonwealth agencies and municipalities, including PREPA, PRDOH, ENLACE, and more since 2018.”

TBC provided program management to the Puerto Rico Department of Housing (PRDOH or ‘Vivienda’) for the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power (STEP) pilot program, a FEMA public assistance temporary housing repair program (also known as the “Tu Hogar Renace” or “Your Home Reborn”).

FEMA obligated more than $1.7B for the pilot program, which allowed more than 108K homeowners to shelter-in-place, while permanent repairs were made to their homes.

The team – many of them area residents – worked with Vivienda to develop a work plan and strategy that ramped the project up in less than five days. They developed program guidance, applicant outreach, initial inspections, and employee training, and managed its execution with more than 1,100 in-house and subcontract staff, reaching more than 215,000 residents across Puerto Rico.

At the peak of the Puerto Rico STEP project, Tidal Basin Caribe employed and contracted with more than 1,500 people on the island. The team of subject matter experts, most of whom speak fluent spanish, trained and supported the staff throughout the life of the program. TBC implemented the program within nine months and successfully closed out the project within 15 months.

Project Impact by the Numbers

500,000

Residents reached

215,000

Applicants

108,000

Repaired homes

15,154

Home inspections conducted in the peak week

700+

People interviewed, hired, and trained in a 72-hour period

1,100+

Trained staff for outreach and intake

9 months

Program implementation

15 months

Program closeout

5 days

Program startup

0 (zero)

OIG Findings

Since the STEP program, TBC has supported numerous major recovery and mitigation programs across the island. These projects include but are not limited to the following:

PRDOH (Vivienda) Projects

  • Home Repair, Reconstruction or Relocation (R3) Program – Under the Alliance for the Recovery of Puerto Rico joint venture with Atkins Global, TBC serves as the program manager in the north-central area of Puerto Rico for the Home Repair, Reconstruction, or Relocation (R3) program. Our team opened two applicant intake centers to service 2,000 homes performed intake for 6,700 applicants and provided benefits to individuals in the pipeline. We are actively providing benefits to individuals in the pipeline, serving 3,500 households.

    Our services include intake; determining eligibility; assessments of houses; coordination of environmental reviews and home appraisals; determination of benefits and verification; duplication of benefits reviews; coordinating awards, contractors, and housing counseling; management of progress inspections and health, quality, and safety inspections; and applicant closeout. 
  • Community Energy & Water Resilience Installation (CEWRI) Program –TBC is providing program management services for the $300M Community Energy and Water Resiliency Initiative. We are responsible for all case management services for CEWRI beneficiaries, coordinating awards, and design of solar and water resiliency improvements for the homes.

  • Non-Federal Match Program – TBC is supporting Vivienda’s $750M Non-Federal Match program which includes projects from 39 municipalities and over 20 state agencies. The Non-Federal Match Program provides CDBG-DR funds to match the required nonfederal cost share portion of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) eligible project worksheets (PWs). Our team ensures compliance with all CDBG-DR, HUD and applicable federal and local requirements, rules and regulations, as well as in PRDOH’s objectives in their Action Plan, and coordinating and monitoring all CDBG-DR related activities.

  • Case Manager Services for Economic Recovery Program – TBC is providing case management services for the CDBG-DR funded economic recovery program portfolio in Puerto Rico. Case Management services include intake, eligibility, HUD income verification, award coordination, and closeout services. Case Managers provide technical assistance to applicants on:
    • Program requirements
    • Application completion, in both English and Spanish
    • Management of applications and technical support on the CDBG-DR Economic Recovery Programs and other initiatives within the Puerto Rico CDBG Disaster Recovery Action Plan.

Particularly, Tidal Basin supports two programs: Small Business Financing Program (SBF), and Re-Grow PR Urban and Rural Agriculture Program (Re-Grow) with intake, income verification, award coordination and closeout services.

Other Puerto Rico Projects

  • Foundation for Puerto Rico – Providing grant management, technical assistance, and training services.
  • ENLACE HMGP Application and Implementation – TBC is responsible for oversight and coordination of development and submission of grant application for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) for a Drainage Improvement Project for Israel-Bitumul, North. The project is included in the Caño Martín Peña Special Planning District's Comprehensive Development and Land Use Plan and includes sanitary sewer, stormwater, and water infrastructure improvements. Tidal Basin has assisted ENLACE with two requests for information from COR3, which is currently evaluating the project for eligibility and feasibility. 
  • Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) – TBC’s subject matter experts and technical specialists provided expertise and oversight on all aspects of FEMA’s Public Assistance program with regards to grants management, project formulation, policy strategy as well as the 404-Hazard Mitigation Grant Program. Our staff worked closely with PREPA staff and FEMA to obtain maximum reimbursements and flexibility in program application, which enabled an advantageous use of federal funding to rebuild PREPA’s infrastructure and help the people of Puerto Rico recover from the devastating impacts of both hurricanes. We formulated and submitted 89 close-out ready Project Worksheet (PW) packages which were obligated for a total of nearly $11 billion. 

“With the aid of local resources, and the shared mission, knowledge, and experience of the team, our vision is to enable Puerto Rico’s recovery from the aftermath of Hurricanes Irma and Maria,” said José L. Valenzuela, VP and Managing Director for Tidal Basin Caribe.

In addition to our recovery and mitigation program support, we have invested in the Puerto Rican communities with donations and volunteer activities to various initiatives, including:

  • Donated to the Red Cross Sound the Alarm Home Fire Campaign and will participate in installing free smoke alarms in homes across the island in October 2022
  • Employee Blood drives in Guaynabo and Bayamon offices
  • Donation to Fundación CAP
  • TBC team attended Vivienda’s Job Fairs
  • Chinchorreo Chic Gala to benefit St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Employees donated to United Way
  • Monetary and gift donations to Hogar Forjadores de Esperanza orphanage
  • Donation to Mohawk Valley Latino Association to support relocated earthquake victims from Puerto Rico 

“Since Tidal Basin Caribe’s inception, we have hired more than 90 full-time and part-time employees to support our ongoing operations and projects. We believe in hiring locally and building capacity and knowledge within the Commonwealth’s agencies and the Island’s talent pool, providing the expertise necessary to effectively implement and lead future disaster programs,” said Valenzuela. “In terms of the Island’s recovery, Hurricane Fiona will impact the progress we have made so far, but Tidal Basin Caribe is dedicated to the long-term recovery of its Puerto Rico’s communities. We will continue to invest in building Puerto Rico’s resiliency to future disasters for years to come.”