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U.S. Housing awards $18.44 billion for Puerto Rico disaster recovery

By on April 10, 2018

SAN JUAN – The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced Tuesday that it awarded nearly $28 billion to support long-term disaster recovery in “hard-hit” areas in nine states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

In Puerto Rico, HUD’s Deputy Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude announced the disaster recovery grants alongside Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.

HUD Deputy Secretary Pamela Hughes Patenaude (Courtesy)

These funds are provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program and are intended to address “seriously damaged housing, businesses and infrastructure from major disasters that occurred since 2015,” according to the department’s release.

The grants represent the largest single amount of disaster recovery assistance in HUD’s history, the department said, and include more than $12 billion for major disasters that occurred in 2017 and nearly $16 billion to support “mitigation” activities in areas that experienced presidentially declared disasters since 2015.

US Housing grants $1.5 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes

HUD describes mitigation as actions taken to protect communities from the “predictable damage from future events.”

Puerto Rico will receive $10.15 billion to address “remaining unmet needs” from hurricanes Irma and Maria, and $8.29 billion in CDBG-DR grants to “support mitigation activities,” for a combined $18.44 billion.

HUD Secretary Ben Carson told USA TODAY that $2 billion is for an upgrade to the Puerto Rico and USVI power grids.

“The electrical grid and the whole power system was just in terrible shape,” Carson said. “In order to rebuild, you’re going to have to have a pretty good power grid system.”

Besides the islands, the disaster aid will go to California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, and South Carolina. Columbia, Richland County and Lexington County, S.C.; and Houston and San Marcos, Texas will also receive grants.

“It’s clear that a number of states and local communities are still struggling to recover from a variety of natural disasters that occurred in the past three years,” Carson says in the release. “These grants will help rebuild communities impacted by past disasters and will also protect them from major disasters in the future.”

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and HUD Secretary Ben Carson (Felipe Torres/CB)

“These funds are crucial to put forth our vision for the new, more resilient Puerto Rico that we want to construct for our future generations. They will help our Puerto Rican families as we rebuild our homes, businesses and our communities that were devastated by the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Island. This good news is the product of our collaborative work with the Administration, our local agencies and our partners at HUD,” Rosselló said in a statement.

According to the release, on Feb. 9, President Trump signed Public Law 115-123, which provides the $28 billion in CDBG-DR funding and which Congress requires be used in the following manner:

“Up to $16 billion to address remaining unmet needs from major disasters in 2017, including Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria as well as California wildfires and subsequent mudslides. Congress specified that at least $11 billion of this amount be targeted to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, with $2 billion targeted to repair and upgrade the electrical grid in these jurisdictions.

“At least $12 billion to support mitigation activities among CDBG-DR grantees that experienced presidentially declared disasters from 2015 through 2017.  After addressing remaining 2017 unmet needs, the Department is able to make an additional $3.9 billion available for mitigation, bringing amount available for mitigation to nearly $16 billion for recent CDBG-DR grantees.”

Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development

“I continue to turn Puerto Rico’s needs into action and am committed to reconstruction efforts from Washington, D.C.  I want to thank Speaker Paul Ryan and my colleagues in Congress for their support and approval of federal funds. I would also like to thank President Trump and his administration for identifying funds available to Puerto Rico. Lastly, I want to thank HUD and Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude for her attention, time and diligence on the island. These funds are a substantial tool for economic recovery and I am extremely pleased to see them reach island residents. I continue working to address the needs of the island moving forward,” González said.

CDBG-DR grants are for disaster recovery activities including housing redevelopment and rebuilding, business assistance, economic revitalization and infrastructure repair. Grantees are required to spend the majority of these recovery funds in “most impacted” areas as identified by HUD, which said it will issue administrative guidelines shortly for use of the funds.

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