About Frank Shafroth

Frank Shafroth is the former Director of Legislative Affairs and Intergovernmental Relations for the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board (MSRB). Mr. Shafroth worked with the executive leadership to manage the MSRB's strategic relationships with state, local and the federal government and monitor legislative and congressional activities that affect the municipal bond industry and the authority of the MSRB. He currently serves as the the Director for the Center of State and Local Leadership and Assistant Professor at George Mason University. Mr. Shafroth has more than 30 years of experience on Capitol Hill and representing state and municipal issues before Congress. Previously, he was chief of staff to Congressman Jim Moran (D-VA), advising the Congressman on economic, tax, housing and community development legislative issues. He was also director of government relations for Arlington County, Virginia, and has served as director of state and federal relations at the National Association of Governors and the National League of Cities. Mr. Shafroth was also a Peace Corps volunteer in Liberia and Colombia and, early in his career, served as a congressional aide and staffer on various House and Senate offices and committees.

The Front Line against the Coronavirus

Even as Congress is struggling to reach agreement on a federal response, and the President three weeks ago denounced covid-19 as the Democrats’ “new hoax,” local leaders have been at the front line–with critical assistance from the Federal Reserve, which has expanded a lending operation that will accept municipal debt as collateral, as fears increase of the costs counties and cities could confront combatting the virus. The Federal Reserve’s changes apply to backstop the $3.8 trillion money market mutual fund unveiled last week–with the move coming as municipal bond prices tanked in the wake of investors pulling withdrawing a record $12.2 billion from mutual and exchange-traded funds. CFO Hazim Taib of the Connecticut Housing Finance Authority said: “A market that is supposed to be liquid and functioning is no longer liquid and functioning…)

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin approved of the expansion, noting: “This will create additional liquidity for the states and municipalities!” His statement came in the wake of local governments and states cancelling cancelling their long-term municipal bond sales as their short-term costs of doing so tripled and doubled.

We will have an opportunity today to assess how grave a challenge can be for one city: Richmond, Virginia, where the Council meets today to vote on ordinances unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic–but meets in this new covid world where the Council’s session cannot allow more than 10 people to the Council chambers, or else it would flout public health guidance meant to slow the spread of the coronavirus–not to mention proximity of both Councilmembers and citizens. It seems that in the Commonwealth, a fully remote meeting–that is a meeting format which would be the safest option, is not permitted under Virginia law, law because the business does not pertain to the state of emergency. Localities lobbied Gov. Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring last week for permission to skirt open-meeting law provisions requiring this, given the circumstances.

Councilmember Stephanie Lynch noted: “We literally can’t conduct normal city business, and it’s absolutely critical that we be able to do so.”

Richmond interim City Attorney Haskell Brown last week advised the Council by email  that a fully remote meeting would not only violate the law, but also put Councilmembers at risk of civil penalties. Thus Councilmember Lynch and others on the Council joined other local officials asking the state to weigh in on the issue localities are now facing because of the pandemic.

Herring issued an opinion Friday night outlining flexibility localities have to conduct meetings electronically during the emergency. However, the opinion reaffirmed what Brown told council members last week: At least five of the nine members still must be physically present to vote.

On Monday, the council is set to vote on a $2.1 million budget transfer to the city’s affordable housing trust fund. Mayor Levar Stoney’s administration said it would use the money for more services for the region’s homeless population.

A second measure would extend the deadline to apply for the city’s tax relief program for seniors and people with disabilities until the end of April. Stoney is also expected to introduce legislation establishing a tax amnesty period on penalties and interest for most local taxes at the meeting.

To vote on the measures Monday without violating the 10-person rule, the council plans to implement a series of precautions.

Only five Councilmembers will be present in the chambers, the minimum to achieve the required quorum; four others will participate by phone, an exception elected officials can request twice per year under current Virginia law. But seating will change: normal seating arrangements will change to achieve adequate social distancing: The city clerk and at least one top administrator will also be present in the chambers; in an adjacent conference room, the city attorney and council chief of staff will participate by phone. Department heads will call into the meeting, in case they need to respond to questions.

All council members agreed the circumstances should not inhibit residents from giving input or tracking issues that are important to them, and a public comment period is still scheduled. Or, as 4th District Councilwoman Kristen Larson put it: “My priority is carrying out our duties and doing it in a way that has public transparency.”

The Council requested residents email comments about the agenda to the city clerk or their council member by noon today: the meeting begins at 6 p.m.

An informal session, routinely held at 4 p.m., has been canceled.

Protecting the Nation’s Most Vulnerable

March 17, 2020

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider one of the challenges for state and local leaders from the coronavirus.  

Protecting the Nation’s Citizens. U.S. District Court Chief Judge Beryl A. Howell on Friday wrote: “In this country of plenty, the federal and state governments work together to ensure that low-income Americans and their families do not go hungry. The largest federal food assistance program that serves as the cornerstone of this joint federal-state effort to reduce hunger—and hunger’s adverse effects on health, educational achievement, and housing security—is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as the food stamp program. A new federal rule poised to go into effect in a few weeks, in April 2020, would dramatically alter the long-standing operations of the SNAP program, placing more stringent requirements on states’ award of SNAP benefits with concomitant, virtually immediate effects on the lives, by the federal government’s estimate, of over one million individuals currently receiving SNAP benefits. Of those million, nearly 700,000 would lose their benefits. Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential.” Judge Howell described the proposed rule change as “capricious, arbitrary, and likely unlawful.”

As proposed, the rule change would have mandated able-bodied adults without children to work at least 20 hours a week in order to qualify for SNAP benefits past three months. In addition, it would have limited states’ usual ability to waive those requirements depending on economic conditions. In contrast, the preliminary injunction will preserve that flexibility.

Here, the Department last December had announced its adoption of the rule change, but critics had called on the Department to suspend implementation, especially in light of the economic crisis spurred by the coronavirus pandemic. Notwithstanding, earlier this week, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stated the Department would proceed with the rule. While the rule applies to “able-bodied adults without dependents,” anti-hunger advocates, including those of us who volunteer and contribute to ALIVE in the D.C. metropolitan region, note that category can include parents who do not have primary custody of their kids, youths who have recently aged out of foster care, as well as some low income college students.

In her decision, District of Columbia, et al v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, #20-119, March 13, 2020, Judge Howell cited concerns raised by the spread of coronavirus and its effect on the most vulnerable Americans, writing: “Especially now, as a global pandemic poses widespread health risks, guaranteeing that government officials at both the federal and state levels have flexibility to address the nutritional needs of residents and ensure their well-being through programs like SNAP, is essential.”

The decision means, at least for the nonce, that the proposed SNAP change is now blocked from taking effect pending the outcome of a lawsuit by 19 states plus the District of Columbia and New York City. Indeed, D.C. Attorney General Karl A. Racine, who co-led the coalition behind the suit, described the outcome as a “major victory for our country’s most vulnerable residents who rely on SNAP to eat: The Trump administration’s rule would have forced hundreds of thousands of people who could not find work, including 13,000 District residents, to go hungry. That could have been catastrophic in the midst of our current public health emergency.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who co-led the coalition with A.G. Racine, said: “At a time of national crisis, this decision is a win for common sense and basic human decency.: Her office noted that the change would have denied SNAP benefits to more than 50,000 people in New York City alone. Attorney General James added: “As we find ourselves in the midst of a pandemic, the effects of this rule would be more destructive than ever.” District of Columbia, et al v. U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, #20-119, March 13, 2020.

Local & State Leaders on the Front Lines of the Coronavirus Pandemic

March 13, 2020

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider the challenges for state and local leaders from the coronavirus.  

Notwithstanding the President’s claim that there is a test for the coronavirus, a claim denied by Dr. Anthony Fauci, the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and infection diseases. State and local leaders have banned large public gatherings. Other city and county leaders—confronted with explosions of citizens seeking tests—even as hospitals have been overwhelmed. In Washington State, one hospital has created a team just to hunt for vacant lots which could be designated for setting up medical tents.  Many who fear they have the virus have faced one roadblock after another as they try to get tested: some have been rejected because they had no symptoms, even though they had been in proximity to someone who tested positive. Others were told no, because they had not traveled to a hot spot abroad, even though they had fevers and hacking coughs and lived in cities with growing outbreaks. Still others were told a bitter truth: There simply were not enough tests to go around.

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan yesterday reported the city has partially activated its emergency operations center and taken other steps to safeguard against the coronavirus outbreak, stating: “We don’t have COVID-19 in the city of Detroit that we know of, but it is inevitable: What we are doing is not panicking. We are preparing.”  The Mayor warned that “It’s likely a matter of days” before the virus is found in the city. The Mayor was joined at the conference by Gary Brown, the Director of Detroit’s water and sewerage department, and Denise Fair, Chief Public Health Officer for the city’s health department.

His announcement came as the Great Lakes Water Authority approved Detroit’s request to double the funding of its water assistance program, taking it from $2.5 million to $5 million per year, after, last Monday, the city had announced that for 30 days, the state of Michigan will cover the costs to restore water service for customers with service shut off due to lack of payment, or who have received notices of pending service interruption.

The city had sought additional funding for the program as the threat of coronavirus increased, so that Mayor Duggan, referring to the coronavirus outbreak, noted: “With Great Lakes Water Authority Funding, we now are funded for several months into the future, and certainly we will be able to do this through as long as this continues.”

In the wake of the confirmation of two cases of the coronavirus in neighboring Wayne and Oakland counties, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state officials urged residents to reduce in-person gatherings and discouraged large events of 100 people or more. Officials urged the city’s larger venues to take proper steps to prevent the illness, but stopping short of telling them to cancel events. The Governor warned: “COVID-19 is expected to last for a long time,” as officials announced that the cherished St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for this Sunday is canceled: It is one among a flurry of activities being canceled or postponed around the region, with Mayor Duggan noting: “It wasn’t something that was done lightly…You think about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, all those folks standing shoulder to shoulder for hours, it was a recipe for the spread of the problem”

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the widespread closures of college campuses, Detroit City Hall, where 9,000 work, will remain open, Mayor Duggan said, and city services will continue: “There are companies that can say to their employees, ‘Stay home and work from home,’ but City government can’t do that. The nature of our business is that we have to keep interacting with the public.”

As hospitals in counties and cities across the nation are prepping for an expected surge in patients as 1,320 cases in 42 states and the District of Columbia were reported yesterday, Mayor Duggan said he has formed a medical response team to handle the potential spread of the virus and to protect city employees and workers. He said the city will “probably err on the side of over-communication” to keep the public informed going forward: “This virus will stop spreading when we start being responsible to our neighbors.”

The greatest challenge will be for municipal and county leaders in counties, cities, towns and villages who are on the front lines of responding to the outbreak of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in their communities. Local elected leaders have the primary responsibility for ensuring the health and safety of their residents. Local governments have longstanding emergency protocols for public health emergencies and community members rely on them to provide them with timely, accurate information about their local preparedness and response. They have never been confronted with a challenge like this at a time of such inability of the federal government to act.

How the Motor City is taking on the Coronavirus

March 12, 2020

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider the actions of the Motor City to address the coronavirus outbreak.  

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan yesterday reported the city has partially activated its emergency operations center and taken other steps to safeguard against the coronavirus outbreak, stating: “We don’t have COVID-19 in the city of Detroit that we know of, but it is inevitable: What we are doing is not panicking. We are preparing.”  The Mayor warned that “It’s likely a matter of days” before the virus is found in the city. The Mayor was joined at the conference by Gary Brown, the Director of Detroit’s water and sewerage department, and Denise Fair, Chief Public Health Officer for the city’s health department.

His announcement came as the Great Lakes Water Authority approved Detroit’s request to double the funding of its water assistance program, taking it from $2.5 million to $5 million per year, after, last Monday, the city had announced that for 30 days, the state of Michigan will cover the costs to restore water service for customers with service shut off due to lack of payment, or who have received notices of pending service interruption.

The city had sought additional funding for the program as the threat of coronavirus increased, so that Mayor Duggan, referring to the coronavirus outbreak, noted: “With Great Lakes Water Authority Funding, we now are funded for several months into the future, and certainly we will be able to do this through as long as this continues.”

In the wake of the confirmation of two cases of the coronavirus in neighboring Wayne and Oakland counties, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state officials urged residents to reduce in-person gatherings and discouraged large events of 100 people or more. Officials urged the city’s larger venues to take proper steps to prevent the illness, but stopping short of telling them to cancel events. The Governor warned: “COVID-19 is expected to last for a long time,” as officials announced that the cherished St. Patrick’s Day Parade scheduled for this Sunday is canceled: It is one among a flurry of activities being canceled or postponed around the region, with Mayor Duggan noting: “It wasn’t something that was done lightly…You think about the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, all those folks standing shoulder to shoulder for hours, it was a recipe for the spread of the problem.”

Nevertheless, and notwithstanding the widespread closures of college campuses, Detroit City Hall, where 9,000 work, will remain open, Mayor Duggan said, and city services will continue: “There are companies that can say to their employees, ‘Stay home and work from home,’ but City government can’t do that. The nature of our business is that we have to keep interacting with the public.”

Mayor Duggan said he has formed a medical response team to handle the potential spread of the virus and to protect city employees and workers. He said the city will “probably err on the side of over-communication” to keep the public informed going forward: “This virus will stop spreading when we start being responsible to our neighbors.”

The Steep Fiscal Path to Recovery from near Chapter 9 Bankruptcy

February 26, 2020

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider the ongoing fiscal recovery of Hartford, Connecticut.  

Hartford, the seat of Hartford County until the State of Connecticut disbanded county government in 1960, where, in June of 2018, we noted, that the Governor had vetoed bipartisan legislation which would have changed how a state board overseeing Hartford’s finances would have operated, and which would have required the continued financial support of Hartford for five years, but would allow the state to reduce other municipal aid to Hartford in the sixth year if the city failed to meet its obligations, but left in place a debt assistance agreement signed by State Treasurer Denise Nappier, as well as the provision which required the state to pay off the entire principal of Hartford’s municipally bonded debt over the next 20 to 30 years, under which the state will make about $40 million in annual payments on the debt—all steps taken in the wake of the city’s teetering, at the time, on the edge of chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy—when the state intervened to take on the city’s debt through the Municipal Accountability Review Board—a step, in retrospect, which has helped the city begin to rebalance its finances.

The city, founded in 1635, before most readers were born, is home to the nation’s oldest public art museum, the Wadworth Atheneum, the oldest public park, Bushnell Park, and the nation’s second oldest secondary school; it is also home to the Mark Twain House, where one of the nation’s most noted story tellers wrote his most famous works and raised his family, writing, in 1868: “Of all the beautiful towns it has been my fortune to see, this is the chief.”

Indeed, for a number of decades after the Civil War, Hartford was the nation’s richest city. Today it is one of the poorest cities in the U.S., with three out of every 10 families living below the poverty threshold. In sharp contrast, the Greater Hartford metropolitan statistical area was ranked 32nd of 318 metropolitan areas in total economic production and 8th out of 280 metropolitan statistical areas in per capita income in 2015. Nicknamed the “Insurance Capital of the World,” Hartford is the home to many insurance company headquarters and is the region’s major industry.

This week, Moody’s Investor Service was in a good fiscal mood, lifting its credit rating for the city one notch from Ba3 from B1, putting Mayor Luke Brannin, understandably, into a good mood. Even though that notch still left the city three notches below investment grade, so that it is still subject to substantial credit risk, Moody’s uplift cited the city’s stable financial operations and improved liquidity through adherence to Hartford’s financial recovery plan, including the benefits of the so-called contract assistance agreement, under which the State of Connecticut two years ago assumed $540 million of the city’s general obligation or GO debt, and cost saving measures the city took through labor contract agreements and tight expense controls. In its rating, Moody’s noted the continued state oversight through the Municipal Accountability Review Board and contract assistance agreement. Ergo, the fiscal arrangement through which the city was able to avoid a chapter 9 municipal bankruptcy filing, nevertheless put the State of Connecticut on the hook for Hartford’s GO debt through 2036. Thus, the Board MARB must approve any spending plan, new municipal bond issuance, as well as labor agreements. Additionally, city officials must continue to report periodically to the State Treasurer and Budget Director and put together a rolling three-year financial plan.

In its report, Moody’s also factored in ongoing challenges with regard to Hartford’s path to long-term sustainably balanced financial operations, including rising expenditures and projected weak revenue growth dependent on tax-base growth and state funding. The city has limited revenue flexibility resulting, in part, from the high percentage of exempt properties within the tax base, persistent challenges of high poverty, above-average unemployment, and low median family income. Moody’s further opined that a continued trend of balanced financial operations and growth in reserves and liquidity could lead to an upgrade, as could modest annual tax-base growth. Nevertheless, Moody’s moodily warned the city’s leaders that deviating from its plan of debt recovery, operating deficits, or a decline in state aid could trigger a downgrade.

The city did, however, also receive some good gnus: last week, HCL Technologies announced it will open a global delivery center in Hartford to serve clients in advanced manufacturing, insurance, aerospace, and defense. HCL also said hardware company Stanley Black & Decker, based 10 miles west in New Britain, will be HCL’s first anchor client. HCL’s announcement came in the wake of Stanley Black & Decker’s recent opening of an advanced manufacturing center of excellence and an advanced manufacturing accelerator in Hartford.

Fiscal, Physical, and Congressional Threats to Puerto Rico’s Recovery

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider fiscal and physical threats to Puerto Rico, after the U.S. Senate appeared set to agree with President Trump and oppose  any new disaster recovery assistance to Puerto Rico in the wake of House passage a disaster relief package opposed by the White House, before considering governance storms in Puerto Rico’s government which could  involving the hacking of as much as $4 million from the U.S. territory’s retirement system.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted 237-161 to approve a $4.89 billion disaster relief package for Puerto Rico aimed at helping recovery efforts after a series of earthquakes or terramotos, which recently hit the island; however, the Senate Republican leadership officially put a stop to it. The White House opposed the relief legislation and appropriation, issuing an official statement threatening a veto and launch new attacks against the territory’s administration, insisting that such succor was “not necessary.” Moreover, the White House opposition appeared to gain support from Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who warned he generally agreed with the White House opposition.

The Senate action came as Puerto Rico’s government suspended three employees as federal agents investigate an online scam which sought to steal more than $4 million from the U.S. territory: Manuel Laboy, the Executive Director of Puerto Rico’s Industrial Development Company, said rigorous procedures were not followed when the agency received an email alleging a change in banking accounts that prompted someone to transfer more than $2.6 million to a fraudulent account in the U.S. mainland last month. Director Laboy declined to share the names and positions of those suspended, saying only that it was one employee from his agency and two from Puerto Rico’s Commerce and Export Company, which sent $63,000 as part of the scam. He added that the FBI has been able to freeze the funds—funds which appear to include pension funds, albeit he stated: “This situation did not affect and will not affect pension payments to retirees.”

The scam also targeted Puerto Rico’s Tourism Company, which sent $1.5 million, according to the police, where the robbery division reported the scam began when someone hacked into the computer of a finance worker at Puerto Rico’s Employment Retirement System in December and sent emails to government agencies. He said government officials realized what had happened when someone at the retirement agency asked why they had not yet received the funds, only to be told they had already been sent.

José Quiñones, president of Obsidis Consortia, a nonprofit cybersecurity organization in Puerto Rico, said those types of attacks are common and can be prevented to a certain point, noting: “No system is 100% safe,” adding that training employees on cyberattacks and keeping software up to date is key. He further stated: “This is a well-coordinated attack…Where the government failed greatly was in the procedures, not the technology.”

Assuming Governing Responsibility for the Use of Federal Disaster Assistance Funds

February 18, 2020

Good Morning! In this morning’s eBlog, we consider a new Executive Order by Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to create an Advisory Council for the Management of Federal Programs.

Reducing Puerto Rico’s Costly Debt Service. Governor Vázquez Graced, under Executive Order EO-2020—16, said she had named such an advisory panel, not because of an unfunded federal mandate, but rather as her own initiative to ensure funds reach the people. Under her order, a panel of experts in fighting government corruption will advise the Governor with regard to the use of federal funds allocated to the Puerto Rico Housing Department through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program and the Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) program, noting that the Advisory Council for the Management of Federal Programs through executive order (EO-2020-16). The named panel includes former federal Judge José Antonio Fusté; former U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico Rosa Emilia Rodríguez, and Nilsa Añeses Loperena, an attorney and former assistant comptroller, who, according to the Governor, will be part of that team as “external resources,” noting: “The purpose and mission of this council will be to ensure the proper management and sound administration of these funds, including strict control and compliance with federal processes and guidelines.” The Governor added that the effective management of these funds “is extremely necessary, and it is our priority; therefore it is essential “to create a comprehensive housing plan which satisfactorily coordinates all federal programs, including CDBG.”

The Governor’s announcement joins the recent appointment of attorney Robert Couch as Federal Monitor for the nearly $20 billion in CDBG-DR program funds approved for Puerto Rico´s recovery. The federal government will also designate Rear Admiral Peter Brown as a “liaison” between the local and federal governments in the management of reconstruction funds allocated in the wake of Hurricane María, according to Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González. The Governor assured the council was not a mandate imposed by the federal government and that its members will work in coordination with Mr. Couch and Admiral Brown: “Admiral Brown and Couch are going to be in direct contact with the Governor and with the Housing Secretary,” the Governor noted, adding that it was important for them to know that these experts “are advisers to the Governor.” Under the program, the government sends funds under the CDBG program, which are not intended for the island’s reconstruction to municipios with a population of 50,000 or less, with the funds focused on road paving projects, housing rehabilitation, housekeeping services, and direct assistance programs for citizens—whilst CDBG-DR program funds approved for reconstruction works after Hurricane María and will be used throughout the U.S. territory. Both Ms. Rodríguez and Judge Fusté stressed they will work to prevent the misuse of federal funds, with Ms.  Rodríguez noting that everybody knows there is cronyism in Puerto Rico: “We hope that our council can prevent countless cases of corruption and, even more, that it will speed up processes so that these funds can reach the people who need them.”

El Nuevo Dia, in an editorial, noted that the “creation of the Advisory Council for the Management of Federal Programs in Puerto Rico represents a wise step to advance, once and for all, vital projects that will pave the way for the island’s reconstruction. The central government must ensure that this moment of change, integrating new resources, leads to a performance of excellence that allows regaining trust with federal authorities. The creation of the local council coincides with the appointment of Admiral Peter J. Brown as Federal Reconstruction Coordinator for Puerto Rico. The White House’s repeated criticism of the island’s government points to the mismanagement of federal funds allocated after Hurricane María. [Admiral] Brown has previously worked in Puerto Rico. He has served as Commander of the Seventh Coast Guard District, Southeast United States and the Caribbean, that’s why his appointment creates good expectations before the need for the release of federal funds intended for the island’s essential projects.

“The Council was created through an executive order signed yesterday by the Governor. Its members have extensive knowledge of the federal government’s operations, and they have reaffirmed their commitment to transparency, which is encouraging at a time when thousands of families affected by the 2017 and the January 7 earthquake and its aftershocks desperately need a safe roof. The team includes former U.S. Attorney for the District of Puerto Rico, between 2017 and 2018, Rosa Emilia Rodríguez and former federal Judge José Antonio Fusté with a three-decade career in the judiciary. La Fortaleza announced they will not receive a salary or allowances for their services. Attorney and former assistant comptroller Nilda Añeses Loperena; municipal affairs advisor Roberto Rivera, and the designated Housing Secretary Luis Fernández Trinchet are also part of the Council. Committing to the proper management of federal reconstruction funds as well as strict oversight to achieve sound management are essential, and it is expected that the experience of the team in these areas will ensure compliance, which has been lacking in agencies whose operations are critical, especially after the emergencies triggered by extreme natural phenomena in Puerto Rico since 2017. Oversight by the Council -focused on following strict federal guidelines on the use of funds allocated to the Housing Department through the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) and Community Development Disaster Response (CDBG-DR) programs must reflect results that translate into swiftly deploying crews to build or repair residences, as well as public infrastructure such as bridges and roads. Progress should come if the state response to meeting federal requirements on the use of funds, as well as communication with federal authorities, improves. In this sense, there are high expectations, due to the fact that Admiral Brown has traveled around the island and speaks Spanish. Meanwhile, part of the group of advisors have worked in the federal government for decades and know its bureaucratic procedures well. The new advisors can help renew the morale of public employees and stimulate confidence for good performance. They should also act to discourage interests unrelated to legitimate public services such as political interests. At the beginning of this new year, progress in the island’s recovery will be a factor in undermining the climate of despair that affects thousands of families who still lack a safe roof. Therefore, oversight by external advisors can make a significant difference in advancing projects that promote the well-being of the entire population.”