New investigation confirms that Trump authorities have blocked Puerto Rico from receiving hurricane aid


Former President Donald Trump’s administration has blocked an investigation into why authorities have withheld about $ 20 billion in Puerto Rico’s hurricane rescue after the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017. It is one of the most deadly US natural disasters in over 100 years. ..

Department of Housing and Urban Development Inspector General Report Announced Thursday, it also found that tensions between the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Management and Budget created an unprecedented procedural hurdle that created delays in the payment of parliamentary-approved funds. ..

It all started after 2018, when the OMB began requiring the HUD to send disaster funding grant notices through an inter-ministerial review process for approval, and the notices needed for the HUD to unlock the funds. Made it difficult to publish in a timely manner. Investigators have discovered that the OMB has never requested such a review process for notification of allocation of withdrawal funds.

Former HUD Deputy Secretary Brian Montgomery told investigators about a call with then-OMB director Russell Vought, according to the report.

Investigators said they were unable to obtain testimony from officials who ordered the inter-ministerial review process. Former HUD Secretary Ben Carson and another former HUD employee also refused to be interviewed by the investigators.

Access to HUD information was repeatedly delayed or denied during the investigation, according to the report, and several former OMB officials refused to provide the requested information regarding the decision-making process for the Puerto Rico Relief Fund.

However, the investigator was able to interview 20 current and former HUD personnel and 2 Puerto Rican housing personnel.

The· The Inspector General’s office said Its supervisors do not acknowledge reviews or official opinions on the actions taken by Trump administration officials.

Image: President Trump visits an area damaged by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, past the wreckage of a hurricane (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters File)

Image: President Trump visits an area damaged by Hurricane Maria in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico, past the wreckage of a hurricane (Jonathan Ernst / Reuters File)

According to the report, the Trump administration’s OMB also argued for a review of Puerto Rico’s property management records, a suspension of the federal minimum wage, and other prerequisites for access to relief funds. Some HUD officials were concerned that such requirements could potentially exceed the HUD’s authority on the grantee.

The Inspector General’s Office began a review in March 2019 after Congress requested that the island recover from a storm and investigate delays in hurricane aid. 2,975 dead And it caused the second longest power outage in the world.

Seven months after the probe was launched, two HUD executives Deliberately missing the deadline mandated by Congress Issue a notice to Puerto Rico to unlock billions of federal reconstruction funds. Carson later defended the actions of his institution By echoing the points of Trump’s story — quote Concerns about corruption and financial irregularities When”Puerto Rico’s ability to manage these funds.. “

Throughout his term Trump repeatedly opposed Disaster funding for Puerto Rico while failing to argue and admit Maria’s death toll..I also had playing cards Talked to the White House top executives “He didn’t want to go to Puerto Rico for a dollar,” he said. The Washington Post reported “Instead, he wanted more money to go to Texas and Florida.”

Under Trump, Congress has approved a total of $ 20 billion in HUD funding for the post-hurricane reconstruction of Puerto Rico. This is a historic amount.But the agency Stalled aid release Imposed in 2019 Additional restrictions Last year, Puerto Rico’s requirements on how to access funds, Quote concerns about corruption and financial mismanagement..

Inspector General Audit Office According to an announcement last year, Puerto Rico needed a better system to request and monitor federal grants to rebuild after Hurricane Maria, but Texas and Florida have similar issues. There is Their money couldn’t hold up after a natural disaster..

Image: Two years after Hurricane Maria affected San Juan Island in Puerto Rico on September 18, 2019, a blue tarpaulin distributed by FEMA covers several roofs.  (Ricardo Arduengo / AFP-Getty Images file)

Image: Two years after Hurricane Maria affected San Juan Island in Puerto Rico on September 18, 2019, a blue tarpaulin distributed by FEMA covers several roofs. (Ricardo Arduengo / AFP-Getty Images file)

The latest probe will arrive in 2 days President Joe Biden’s administration has lifted Puerto Rico’s unique Trump era restrictions Limits the ability to access collected funds via the HUD.The agency also unlocked access to $ 8.2 billion Relaxation of community development block subsidies Funding to help the island build resilience to future disasters. Aid was approved by Parliament in 2018.

Biden requires additional grant obligations, federal financial monitors to oversee aid, and additional oversight from the island’s federal government-imposed financial oversight committee, according to the new HUD Secretary of State Marcia Fudge. The restrictions have been lifted.

The federal government has allocated nearly $ 69 billion to help the island recover from Maria. Other disasters It has hit the island over the past few years. However, most of the money, especially for housing and infrastructure bailouts, does not flow to the island community. Puerto Rico Resilience, Reconstruction and Resilience Office..

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