June 27, 2019
Puerto Rico’s HUD Hurricane Relief Comes With Extra Oversight
In late February, the Department of Housing and Urban Development released its Puerto Rico Disaster Recovery Action Plan, declaring its intention to aid the island protectorate in overcoming the ravages inflicted upon it by Hurricane Maria in 2017. The stated goal is to “address the urgent humanitarian needs of island residents while also developing and implementing a transformative recovery.”
As many readers will know, the challenges faced by Puerto Rico in dealing with the destruction caused by the 2017 storms have been legion, and have frustrated many people on both the local and national levels. As part of this plan, HUD approved the disbursement of $8.2 billion of the additional funds (on top of a previous $1.5 billion Congress approved in February of 2018, and a further $18.5 billion in April 2018, both approved by HUD) that have been made available to the recovery efforts to take place on the island by Congress. The Agency’s approval of the plan for Puerto Rico makes the protectorate eligible for disaster funds appropriated by Congress, to be disbursed by the grant funds controlled by HUD itself.
But HUD intends to keep a tight rein on the money, in the form of fiscal oversight. Citing Puerto Rico’s “history of fiscal malfeasance,” HUD Secretary Ben Carson stated that HUD will be “putting additional financial controls in place to ensure this disaster recovery money is spent properly.” With this oversight, he claimed, “these dollars should have a real, lasting impact on Puerto Rico and help our fellow citizens who are struggling to recover from these devastating storms.”
Among the controls HUD is putting in place are heightened monitoring of expenses and other measures to ensure that the government of Puerto Rico uses the funds in legal and efficacious ways.
Puerto Rico’s authorities have claimed the funds will be used first to address those humanitarian needs that are most dire, while looking forward to building toward a robust recovery.
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