Puerto Rico has received just about $14 billion in funds for disaster recovery, even though President Trump has said many times that the Island has received $92 billion. Members of Congress are worrying that the funds they approved last year will not be sent to Puerto Rico at all.
Rep. Raul Grijalva said, “Congress approved disaster relief, and that relief needs to be distributed so communities can rebuild and struggling Americans can get on with their lives. Hiding behind the president’s whims or endless excuses is not good enough. The administration needs to answer these questions, distribute this assistance, and show it’s capable of doing the work our laws demand.”
Grijalva, along with a number of colleagues, sent a letter to HUD asking that they publish a Federal Register Notice clarifying when the funds would be disbursed. The other signers of the letter: Sens. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), and Reps. Nydia Velazquez (N.Y.-07), José Serrano (N.Y.-15), Adriano Espalliat (N.Y.-13), Eleanor Holmes-Norton (D.C.), Donna Shalala (Fla.-27), Juan Vargas (Calif.-51), Raul Grijalva (Ariz.-03), Ruben Gallego (Ariz.-07), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (N.Y.-14), Yvette Clarke (N.Y.-09), Albio Sires (N.J.-08), Gregory Meeks (N.Y.-05), Jesús “Chuy” Garcia (Ill.-04), Jim McGovern (Mass.-02), Tom Suozzi (N.Y.-03), Sheila Jackson Lee (Texas-18), and Tony Cardenas (Calif.-29).
The Government Accountability Office stated in a report last spring that red tape was a primary reason that Puerto Rico had not received the funds needed to rebuild. Recent political upheaval in Puerto Rico provided further “excuses,” to quote Grijalva again, to delay the funds even further.
HUD announced last month that it would send funds appropriated by Congress to states first, and only after that would it send the money for the territories. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson specifically mentioned “alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and financial mismanagement occurring in Puerto Rico” as a reason for the delay.
The disaster funds are intended to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico two years ago, in September of 2017.