10 Aug MCJ’s Morse Advises Resiliency Law Center at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law on Disaster Recovery
MCJ’s Katrina response team was so fortunate to receive massive pro bono support and guidance on advocacy after Hurricane Katrina and so, when the call goes out, we have readily stepped forward to share our lessons in more recent disasters in the United States, overseas in Japan, and most recently in Puerto Rico, a U. S. territory with acute political, fiscal, and social challenges.
As climate change and global warming intensify the risks posed by natural disasters, the residents of Puerto Rico are focused upon rebuilding for a more resilient and sustainable future after the 2017 devastation from Hurricane Maria. Almost $20 billion in federal block grant aid was awarded to Puerto Rico, including $2 billion to rebuild its electrical grid and $8 billion to mitigate future losses across many sectors. Four years later, very little of these funds actually have been spent due to Washington’s bureaucratic interference and Puerto Rico’s own fiscal crisis and capacity shortages.
To help accelerate the recovery, the newly-launched Resiliency Law Center at the University of Puerto Rico School of Law has recruited a cohort of professionals to receive training on follow-the-money advocacy. I was honored to contribute a series of lectures based upon MCJ’s response to Hurricane Katrina which has just concluded. Under the guidance of RLC director Adi Martinez-Roman, the participants have received training on the federal block grant program and reporting requirements, advocacy that humanizes data arguments with survivors’ experiences, and a range of communication opportunities. “For us in the RLC and other participants of the training,” said Martinez-Roman, “it has been extremely helpful to receive the knowledge and know-how from those who, like us, have gone through terrible disasters and faced an equally terrible disaster recovery and reconstruction process. We now feel more empowered to identify policy issues and state our case before different forums. Thank you so much Mississippi Center for Justice!” We hope that this training will better equip advocates in Puerto Rico and those they serve to achieve an equitable and sustainable recovery from Hurricane Maria.
Reilly Morse serves as General Counsel of MCJ. His past roles include president/CEO (2013-20), policy director (2011-13), and housing co-director (2006-11). As housing co-director, he secured a $132 million settlement to solve Hurricane Katrina housing needs that grew to $212 million.