Bill Introduced to Boost Accountability during Puerto Rican Disaster Recovery

Representatives Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), and Nydia Velázquez (D-NY) introduced on December 17 the “Community Driven Recovery for Puerto Rico Act.” The bill would establish a Civil Society Task Force to ensure that Puerto Ricans have greater decision-making power in the ongoing recovery from Hurricane Maria, which struck the island in 2017, and Puerto Rico’s recent earthquakes.

The 13-member task force would be comprised of representatives from local government, community, foundations, business, labor, and higher education. Representatives would provide oversight and promote equity and inclusion in the recovery work being performed by FEMA, HUD, the Puerto Rico Housing Department, and the Puerto Rican Central Recovery and Reconstruction Office. The ongoing response to Hurricane Maria and the recent earthquakes has been slowed by federal inaction and criticized by Puerto Rican advocates as excluding the public from its decision-making processes. The Civil Society of Puerto Rico is largely viewed as immune from the political squabbles that have periodically erupted on the island in recent years and many advocates view them as ideal representatives to oversee the ongoing recovery.

Oxfam America, a long-time member of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition’s (DHRC’s) Puerto Rico Working Group, spearheaded advocacy efforts around the bill. The DHRC Puerto Rico Working Group works to amplify efforts to release federal funding for Puerto Rico and ensure adequate public input in the recovery process. “Local people must be included and empowered in the use of federal recovery funds” said Adi Martinez, senior policy analyst for Puerto Rico at Oxfam America. “There is nothing more powerful or effective to secure transparency and ensure that federal dollars really meet people’s needs – than to give voice to community leaders.” Several other members of the DHRC Puerto Rico Working Group have also endorsed the bill, including the National Puerto Rican Agenda and the National Coalition for Latinxs with Disabilities.

Read the text of the bill at:

Read a press release announcing the bill’s introduction at: