Restrictions on Recovery Aid to Puerto Rico Rile Advocates; Members of Congress Call for Expanded Disaster Housing Assistance

Opposition to HUD’s decision to place severe restrictions on recovery and mitigation funding headed to Puerto Rico (see Memo, 1/27) continues to grow among advocates and some members of Congress. One of the top concerns is the empowerment of the Financial Oversight and Management Board (FOMB) to control recovery decisions. The FOMB is a federally created board that has been guiding the territory out of its substantial debt. Advocates are arguing for the creation of a civil society task force to oversee the recovery process instead of the FOMB, whose members have no disaster recovery experience. “There is nothing more powerful or effective to combat corruption and ensure that federal dollars meet peoples’ needs than to give voice to community leaders” stated Adi Martinez of Oxfam and DHRC member in an op-ed in The Hill. “We stand with civil society in Puerto Rico overwhelmingly rejecting the idea of greater centralization and the continued disconnect from those who matter most: the people of Puerto Rico.” Adi also published a letter to the editor in The Washington Post. "In our experience responding to disasters around the world, Oxfam has seen how overly controlled aid by Washington — including the kind seen in Puerto Rico — does not prevent corruption and leads to ineffective and poorly prioritized spending," she wrote.

As Puerto Ricans mark the fourth week since deadly earthquakes began to rock the island, conditions at territorial government-administered refugee camps are deteriorating. Flooding from recent heavy rains has turned many of the camps into muddy quagmires, as families continue living in tents and Puerto Rico National Guardsman patrol camp perimeters. Hundreds of families have already fled to the mainland, many to Florida where they have struggled to find affordable housing. As a result, members of the Florida congressional delegation have been closely following the situation in Puerto Rico. Representative Darren Soto (D-FL) led the delegation in sending a letter to FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor urging the agency to enter into an agreement with HUD to implement the Disaster Housing Assistance Program (DHAP) in Puerto Rico. DHAP had been successfully utilized by both Democratic and Republican administrations to provide housing assistance to low-income disaster survivors in the past. However, the agencies have refused to enact such programs after recent major disasters. “The people of Puerto Rico have faced enough tragedy” the letter reads. “Providing safe, affordable housing is the least we can do for our fellow American citizens in need.”

Read Adi Martinez’s op-ed at:

Read Adi Martinez's letter to the editor at:

The Florida Congressional delegation’s letter to FEMA is at: