For more than 90 days, the Trump administration has violated the law by holding up congressionally approved disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico. Leaders from the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC)-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition demand the immediate release of these desperately needed funds and an end to putting American lives in grave danger.
Washington, DC – While we commend HUD’s recently announced allocation of $2.3 billion in desperately needed long-term disaster recovery funding for fifteen states and four territories, the agency’s failure to abide by the law and release the more than $16 billion approved by Congress for Puerto Rico is unacceptable. The NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of more than 850 local, state, and national organizations again call on HUD to release this funding immediately. These resources are critical to the island’s ability to recover from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and to weather future storms.
Congress approved over $16 billion in disaster mitigation funding for Puerto Rico nearly two years ago, but HUD has shamelessness delayed releasing the aid. HUD has not only ignored a congressionally mandated deadline to release the funds by September of this year but has also failed to live up to representations made by HUD political appointees to Congress regarding when these funds would be released.
“It is outrageous that Secretary Carson continues to withhold critical mitigation funding for Puerto Rico approved by Congress nearly two years ago,” said Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition president and CEO. “Secretary Carson’s decision to ignore Congress and refuse to release these funds makes it nearly impossible for Puerto Ricans to prepare for future disasters. Congress must hold him accountable – every day of inaction puts American lives at risk.”
“A delayed recovery is not a just recovery, and HUD has delayed for far too long critical funds needed for Puerto Rico to recover,” said Ariadna M. Godreau Aubert, Ayuda Legal Puerto Rico executive director. “The recent amendment to Puerto Rico’s recovery plan is an opportunity to evaluate and revise how these funds are used to truly impact Puerto Rican communities. We hope that HUD and the territorial Government, specifically the Puerto Rico Department of Housing, will use this time period to quickly remedy a disaster recovery funding process that has been inadequate and void of public participation and finally adopt a comprehensive displacement mitigation policy that will truly benefit Puerto Ricans.”
“HUD needs to stop playing games,” said Kathy Bergin, director of the Disaster Law Project. “Thousands of people in Puerto Rico are still living in dilapidated homes with tarp-covered roofs. What good does it do to formally allocate money for housing recovery, without a system that allows Puerto Rico housing officials to access those funds?”
“Community leaders in Puerto Rico are still struggling to access the resources to recover and build resiliency,” said Carmen Villanueva, FURIA, Inc. community liaison and community leader in Puerto Rico. “The new allocation does not mean much if HUD does not release the $16 billion for reconstruction and mitigation, and there is genuine community participation in the reconstruction processes.”
“Puerto Rico is the only entity still awaiting the release of billions of CDBG-DR dollars previously appropriated by Congress for disaster recovery. HUD’s continued allocations indicates their awareness of the ongoing need, but it doesn’t mean much if Puerto Rico does not get those funds,” said Laura M. Esquivel, Hispanic Federation director of national advocacy. “It is disgraceful that HUD is acting with impunity by failing to comply with the law and intentionally ignoring legally imposed deadlines as HUD officials have openly admitted to Congress. Secretary Carson and the Trump administration need to be held accountable, and the people of Puerto Rico must receive the funds Congress has determined they need to begin a meaningful recovery process. Two years is too long to wait.”
“HUD’s on-going and purposeful delays in disbursing critical funds needed for a just recovery in Puerto Rico and approved by Congress last year is yet another example of this administration’s dismissive and discriminatory treatment of Puerto Rico after the hurricane,” said Natasha Lycia Ora Bannan, LatinoJustice PRLDEF senior counsel. “Puerto Ricans are still waiting for their homes to be rebuilt, their roads to be repaired and their electricity to come back on while this administration insists on punishing the island by withholding funds that can help people live.”
“This new allocation to Puerto Rico is not enough or significant. Real, effective and resilient recovery of Puerto Rico is impossible without the flow of all other allocated federal funds,” said Adi Martínez-Román, Puerto Rico, Oxfam America senior policy analyst. “By withholding CDBG-DR monies designated by Congress for these purposes, HUD is not only stalling recovery, but it is also crushing the possibility of poor and vulnerable Puerto Rican communities to build resiliency in the face of climate crisis.”
About DHRC: NLIHC led coalition of more than 850 national, state, and local organizations, including many working directly with disaster-impacted communities and with first-hand experience recovering after disasters.