U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Dr. Benjamin Carson has announced the release of an $8.2 billion in aid to Puerto Rico to assist with disaster recovery efforts.
"Now that proper financial controls are in place, implementing the second phase of Puerto Rico's disaster recovery program can move forward with an extension to its line of credit,” said Secretary Carson. “Additional oversight was needed before we could proceed with confidence that these critical disaster recovery funds will reach those who need them the most. HUD looks forward to working with Vivienda as they continue their recovery process. With this unprecedented amount of capital, it is our firm hope and expectation that Puerto Rico will become the jewel of the Caribbean.”
Robert M. Couch will serve as the Federal Financial Monitor to oversee the grant administration and disbursement process of disaster recovery funds to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Couch, who previously served as HUD’s General Counsel from December 2006 to November 2008 will join HUD as a career member of the Senior Executive Service.
“We are glad to have Robert re-join our Department to manage our financial oversight operations in Puerto Rico,” said Secretary Carson. “He has an extensive background with decades of private and public sector experience dealing with financial reporting, risk management, and executing the law. Robert will be an asset in supporting HUD’s mission to continue aiding recovery efforts in Puerto Rico while ensuring that appropriated funds are used in a responsible manner and for their intended purpose.”
The $8.2 billion tranche was originally intended to assist with recovery efforts following the 2017 hurricanes. In February 2018, Congress had approved $1.5 billion towards the recovery efforts with an additional $18.5 billion approved in April, which also included funds targeted to reinstating the electric grid and other mitigation activities after the devastation caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. HUD approved the disbursement of $8.2 billion in March 2019 as part of the grant made available to Puerto Rico's recovery by Congress in 2018.
HUD will soon be publishing a notice in the Federal Register that will provide Puerto Rico with the guidelines for establishing its plan to use long-term mitigation funds appropriated by Congress. Puerto Rico's long-term recovery is supported through HUD's Community Development Block Grant—Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program, which requires grantees to develop thoughtful recovery plans informed by local residents.