Members of Congress Call for Investigation of Puerto Rico Recovery Funding Delay, Call for Increased Assistance after Deadly Earthquakes

Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) led ten other members of Congress in requesting an inquiry by the HUD Inspector General into whether the Trump administration’s continued delay in providing disaster recovery funding for Puerto Rico violates the law – specifically the Impoundment Control Act of 1974. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) released an opinion in January saying the president violated that law by delaying security assistance appropriated by Congress to Ukraine. Using that precedent, the lawmakers requested that HUD’s Office of the Inspector General review the delays in assistance to Puerto Rico.

To date, Puerto Rico has received only $1.5 billion of the almost $20 billion in recovery and mitigation funding appropriated by Congress. The lawmakers’ request comes after the speedy passage of emergency supplemental appropriations in the House on February 7. That bill provides more than $3 billion in recovery funding as Puerto Rico continues to deal with the aftermath of deadly earthquakes (see Memo, 2/10). 

"For two years, HUD Secretary Ben Carson wrongfully withheld critical mitigation and disaster recovery funding approved by Congress for Puerto Rico,” said NLIHC President and CEO Diane Yentel in a press notice announcing the request. “While the administration now claims that it will release the funds, it has proposed steep restrictions that could promote the interests of investors over Puerto Ricans, undermine living wage standards, lead to further displacement, and set up pretenses for additional delays by HUD. I thank Senator Warren for working to hold the Trump administration accountable for these outrageous delays and its willingness to put the lives of U.S. citizens at risk."

In other Puerto Rico recovery news, Representative José E. Serrano (D-NY) led a group of New York lawmakers in sending a letter to FEMA Administrator Peter Gaynor, urging the agency to enter into an agreement with HUD to put into effect the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) to assist survivors of the recent deadly earthquakes in Puerto Rico. Without this program, many Puerto Rican disaster survivors on the island and others who have fled to New York and other states may struggle to afford housing.