Members of Congress Urge FEMA to Act on Public Assistance for Puerto Rico and to Address Reports of Misuse of Resources

Members of Congress sent FEMA Administrator Brock Long two letters regarding the agency’s response to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, one related to public assistance for Puerto Rico and one requesting a briefing on recovery efforts and reports of the misuse of resources. 

On October 13, Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), and Cory Booker (D-NJ) sent a letter to Mr. Long urging him to immediately approve Puerto Rico’s request for Permanent Work Public Assistance (also referred to as PA Categories C-G). Puerto Rico Governor Rosselló submitted the aid request to help fund permanent repairs for roads, bridges, public utilities, and other critical infrastructure. The letter also urges FEMA to work with Congress to increase the federal cost-share to 100% for such repairs since Puerto Rico was facing financial challenges prior to the hurricane.

Although FEMA approved Permanent Work funding (PA Categories C-G) for Texas ten days after Harvey and for the U.S. Virgin Islands after Maria hit, FEMA has still not authorized this funding for Puerto Rico. Approximately 87% of Puerto Rico still does not have power, and about 28% of the island does not have running water. Less than half of the cellphone towers are working. Puerto Rico needs additional assistance through the Permanent Work funding to make the major repairs that are needed. The Stafford Act allows President Trump to expedite the aid process and help provide the necessary aid to rebuild.

Four members of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Representatives Rob Bishop (R-UT), Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), and Jenniffer González-Colón (PR), sent a letter on October 17 to the FEMA administrator requesting a briefing on recovery efforts. The request is in response to complaints received by the FBI San Juan Field Office regarding the misuse of funds and emergency supplies by local government officials. The Committee on Natural Resources has requested a report be submitted by October 23.