HUD Secretary Ben Carson just announced that even though Puerto Rico is entitled to $8.3 billion in disaster mitigation funds, they won't be getting it any time soon.
The Trump administration continues to slow-walk aid to Puerto Rico.
This time, it's because the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is about to issue rules about how certain disaster-related funds are allocated. Those new rules will mean that states can access that money before Puerto Rico or the Virgin Islands, even though Puerto Rico desperately needs the funds.
In April of 2018, HUD announced $16 billion to support mitigation efforts, or "actions taken to protect communities from the predictable damage from future events."
Of that money, $8.3 billion is for Puerto Rico, with the rest distributed among nine states and the Virgin Islands.
Given Puerto Rico's fragile infrastructure and the fact that the peak of this year's hurricane season is yet to come, Puerto Rico must have funds to undertake disaster prevention efforts, not just disaster recovery.
Puerto Rico isn't going to see that money for quite some time. HUD Secretary Ben Carson announced last week that the money would be released in two batches, with the states getting their funds in the next few weeks. Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands won't see any money until HUD imposes "stricter oversight and financial controls" — and there's no timetable for when that is supposed to happen.
Carson issued a statement slamming Puerto Rico for "alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and financial mismanagement" as justification for his decision to delay aid. It's far more likely, though, that the delay is due to Trump's ongoing hatred of Puerto Rican officials.
At every turn, Trump has blocked aid to Puerto Rico or muddied the water about the amount of assistance extended. He has lied about how much money the island has received, claiming it received over $90 billion and wanted the money to pay off bondholders. In actuality, $42.5 billion has been allotted, but only $13.6 billion has been distributed thus far.
The administration also dragged its feet over giving the island $600 million in emergency aid earlier this year. In May, Trump also demanded the GOP vote against a disaster relief package because it contained money for Puerto Rico. This is just the latest move in an ongoing effort to punish the island — and the whole GOP is on board.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.