HUD announced that it finished drafting a grant agreement for the more than $8 billion in stalled federal recovery funding for Puerto Rico approved by Congress almost two years ago (see Memo, 1/21). The Puerto Rico Department of Housing has 90 days to sign the document in order to access the funding. The document had been expected soon after HUD approved Puerto Rico’s plan for the funds in March of 2019, but the agency placed an arbitrary hold on the funds.
Although the grant agreement has not been released to the public, the grant agreement contains severe restrictions similar to those found in the recently released Federal Register notice covering an additional $8 billion in mitigation funding. That Federal Register notice requires substantial changes in Puerto Rican law related to worker pay and property rights. HUD came under increasing pressure from congressional leadership to move forward with these recovery and mitigation funds, and the agency finally lifted the hold on the funding earlier this month. Members of the NLIHC-led Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition (DHRC), consisting of more than 850 local, state, and national organizations doing disaster recovery work, have argued for quick release of the funding, which is needed for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria in 2017 and prepare the island to withstand future disasters.
In the aftermath of earthquakes hitting the southern portion of the island, Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez came under fire this week when it was discovered that her administration failed to release badly needed emergency supplies from warehouses located throughout the island. Protestors gathered in front of the governor’s mansion and demanded Governor Vazquez’ resignation. After the existence of the warehouses was disclosed to the public, the governor fired Puerto Rico’s two top housing and emergency management officials. Although Governor Vazquez claimed she removed both officials because they failed to notify her office of the warehouses’ existence, fired Housing Secretary Gil Enseñat stated that the governor knew of the warehouses long before the earthquakes struck. The DHRC and its partners will continue to monitor the ongoing recovery efforts and advocate for the greatest federal and territorial response possible.
The announcement of the grant agreement is at: https://bit.ly/2NXGMuH
The recently released CDBG-MIT Federal Register notice is at: https://bit.ly/3ajAM9d
A statement from the DHRC regarding the withheld funding is at: https://bit.ly/3aFjPWZ
An article on the ongoing Puerto Rico protests is at: https://n.pr/3aHb4vq