Biden releases Puerto Rico aid funds that Trump blocked for nearly 2 years

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Trump blocked billions in relief aid to Puerto Rico for Hurricane Maria for over a year.

Puerto Rico will finally get to start using billions in relief aid Congress passed in 2017, after the island was hit hard by Hurricane Maria that year.

President Joe Biden's administration approved the release of $1.3 billion in relief funding on Monday that the Trump administration had been blocking and restricting.

Biden approved the release of $1.3 billion in relief funding on Monday, and took restrictions off another $4.9 billion, the New York Times reported.

The newly released funds were part of $20 billion in relief for the island that Congress had allocated to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, as part of a bigger relief package. But just $138 million has been used by the department so far, the New York Times reported. Experts have said Trump's insistence on added regulations and restrictions on funds for Puerto Rico has played a major role.

Congress has allocated around $66 billion to Puerto Rico since 2017, according to the Miami Herald. However to date, just $18 billion has been disbursed — or less than a third of the relief aid, according to the Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, which tracks the funds.

Puerto Rico has been waiting for federal help for years to help clean up and rebuild after being hit by Hurricanes Maria and Irma in 2017.

It has taken so long in part because Trump did not want Puerto Rico to receive aid, telling congressional Republicans in 2018 he didn't think it was necessary and even suggesting Puerto Ricans weren't American citizens — even though they have been since 1917.

As they did for his entire tenure and continue to do even though he is no longer in office, congressional Republicans sided with Trump as he blocked and restricted aid.

However, in the final months of 2020, when Trump needed the support of Puerto Rican voters in critical states like Florida, Trump promised billions in relief to Puerto Rico in October 2020 in an apparent effort to earn the vote of Puerto Rican voters.

Trump lost the election to Biden a month later.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.