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Federal Disaster Recovery Fraud, Bribery, and Delays: Congress Must Hold Agencies Accountable

A coalition of more than 800 organizations calls on Congress to ramp up efforts to oversee federal agencies in charge of disaster recovery.

Washington, D.C. – In response to the arrest of two FEMA officials, including one of the agency’s top administrators, on federal fraud and bribery charges related to disaster-recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of more than 800 organizations calls on Congress to ramp up efforts to oversee federal agencies in charge of disaster recovery, including FEMA and HUD, and to hold the agencies accountable for failing to ensure scarce recovery funds reach those in need of assistance.

The FEMA officials were sent to Puerto Rico to aid in the recovery efforts but instead choose to enrich themselves. The arrests come on top of HUD’s failure to meet a congressionally mandated, statutory deadline to release critically needed disaster mitigation funds to Puerto Rico. In both cases, failures at the federal level are impeding Puerto Rico’s recovery. Thousands of families are still living with blue tarps over their damaged or destroyed roofs, and thousands more have been wrongfully denied FEMA assistance, making it harder for low-income people and their communities to get back on their feet.

“These unconscionable and abhorrent actions demand immediate attention by Congress,” stated Diane Yentel, National Low Income Housing Coalition president and CEO. “While HUD continues to withhold desperately needed money for Puerto Ricans to begin rebuilding to withstand the next hurricane – supposedly due to concerns about local corruption – federal FEMA employees and contractors were allegedly stealing recovery dollars. Congress should immediately call the secretary of Homeland Security and acting director of FEMA to testify on whether this type of fraud is pervasive and what safeguards will be put into place to prevent further misuse of recovery funds. They should also call the secretary of HUD to testify to answer for his agency’s defiance of the congressional mandate that disaster mitigation dollars be made available to Puerto Rico immediately, after nearly 19 months of HUD inaction.”


About DHRC: NLIHC led coalition of more than 800 national, state, and local organizations, including many working directly with disaster-impacted communities and with first-hand experience recovering after disasters.