Sen. Warren questions OMB, HUD about Puerto Rico recovery funds
SAN JUAN – U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) wrote this week to the heads of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to inquire about media reports that President Trump’s administration is “using the shutdown as an excuse to intentionally withhold Congressionally-appropriated aid for Puerto Rico recovery efforts, in addition to efforts in several other states and territories,” a release by her office reads.
The senator asked OMB Director Mick Mulvaney and HUD Secretary Ben Carson about two recent articles, one by the Washington Post reporting that, in September, Trump instructed his administration to cut off disaster-recovery funds to Puerto Rico, and another by NBC saying the Trump administration is using the shutdown as an excuse to stall the disbursement of housing funds for the island. Disbursements for several other states and territories are also being delayed due to the shutdown.
“In the wake of these reports, I am particularly concerned about the fact that HUD has halted the disbursement of billions of dollars of housing recovery funds for Puerto Rico and other states and territories affected by recent territories as a result of the President’s ongoing government shutdown,” Warren wrote. “This refusal to provide this funding – which will go to ‘the restoration of damaged and destroyed homes, businesses and infrastructure’ – is directly at odds with HUD’s own ‘Contingency Plan for Possible Lapse in Appropriations,’ which says that HUD will continue to disburse Community Development Block Grants and certain other grants during a shutdown.”
HUD allocated $1.5 billion to Puerto Rico on Feb. 1, 2018, from an appropriation enacted in September 2017, and an additional $18.5 billion in April 2018 from an appropriation enacted on Feb. 9, 2018.
The OMB recently issued a Statement of Administration Policy opposing as “excessive and unnecessary” a grant of $600 million for disaster nutrition assistance included in a House bill, “which could help 230,000 new program participants,” according to the release.
The senator asked both agencies to provide answers to her questions by Feb. 5.
While on the island Tuesday as part of her exploratory presidential campaign, the senator called on Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Administrator Brock Long to resign, saying, “If accountability for government means anything,” Long “should take responsibility for his failures.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met with Warren on Tuesday as well.
“I am grateful for Senator Warren’s commitment to the people of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló said, “especially in light of recent events that indicate that the U.S. government response was insufficient given the magnitude of the catastrophe we faced.”
Rosselló called Warren’s letter “an exemplary act of legislative checks on the executive branch. I encourage her to keep fighting on behalf of 3.2 million Americans that do not have the right to vote in federal elections.”