SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – Three major U.S.-based foundations on Wednesday pledged an initial $5 million to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria, including the creation of an advisory commission to help guide reconstruction efforts.
The announcement by the Rockefeller Foundation, the Open Society Foundations and the Ford Foundation comes nearly two months after the Category 4 storm destroyed tens of thousands of homes and killed at least 55 people across the U.S. territory.
"We have to reimagine how we're going to rebuild," said Miguel Soto-Class, founder and president of a local think tank, Center for a New Economy, and co-chairman of the commission.
The commission will have up to 25 experts as members who will submit a report by early next year on where and how federal and nonprofit funds should be spent, he said. Efforts will focus on sectors including energy, economic development, infrastructure, education and migration.
Soto-Class said it is important that the recommendations come from a neutral platform and not from local or federal government officials.
A portion of the $5 million also will go toward rebuilding homes and distributing solar lightning, said Rajiv Shah, president of the Rockefeller Foundation.
Although a tragedy, the storm provides a unique "opportunity to smartly rebuild an economy and a society that can be more successful," he said.
When the hurricane hit, Puerto Rico was seeking to restructure a portion of its $73 billion public debt load as it struggled through its 11th year of recession.