In the wake of a destructive 6.4-magnitude quake that struck Puerto Rico Tuesday morning, the Trump administration is refusing to release all the available funds to the island citing concerns of “financial mismanagement” and “corruption.” The New York Daily News reports that the Department of Housing and Urban Development was supposed to begin disbursing $9.7 billion in aid in September to help natural disaster readiness following Hurricane Maria.
They’ve only released about $1.5 billion and a senior agency official to the publication there claims there are no plans to release the remainder any time soon despite the devastation following the quake, which has left parts of the island without power or water. “Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million — less than 1% of those funds,” the official said.
“Given the Puerto Rican government’s history of financial mismanagement, corruption, and other abuses, we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most: the people of Puerto Rico,” the HUD official told The News, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The island declared a state of emergency after the quake and its roughly 3 million citizens are still recovering from the hurricanes that wreaked havoc in 2017. The Trump administration’s decision to withhold funds has been criticized by Democrats, as well as, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, who has been critical of Trump in the past.
El trabajo continua, la vida no se detiene. Seguimos construyendo el proyecto Villa Esperanza en Cantera con casas que aguantan terremoto 7.0, 100% energía solar y cisterna. Hay que ajustarnos a una realidad distinta. Seguimos… pic.twitter.com/GmmH260MO9
— Carmen Yulín Cruz (@CarmenYulinCruz) January 13, 2020
“We have not received the reconstruction money that has been allocated for Puerto Rico, and in that respect, I urge every member of Congress, whether Democrat or Republican — this is an issue of justice — to ask and demand that the president of the United States declare portions, if not the entirety, of Puerto Rico a state of emergency,” she told NBC News.
Puerto Rican Queens-Brooklyn Rep. Nydia Velazquez said HUD’s own inspector general recently concluded there’s no evidence to suggest Puerto Rico can’t properly handle the funds, according to the Daily News. They also report that Velazquez explained it isn’t up to HUD to block the funds as they were approved by Congress, instead she believes it’s Trump’s personal vendetta.
“The real motivation for withholding these dollars is Donald Trump’s disdain for the people of Puerto Rico and heartless disregard for their suffering,” Velazquez told Daily News.
Velazquez, along with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and New York’s Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer sent a letter earlier this week to HUD Secretary Ben Carson demanding the outstanding $8.3 billion be released to Puerto Rico immediately to help with the recovery after the quake.
“Holding these resources back means delaying the island’s economic and physical recovery, period,” Velazquez told the Daily News.