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Biden to Release Billions in Puerto Rico Disaster Relief

Puerto Rico's hurricane recovery efforts — specifically those following Hurricane Maria in 2017 — have been slow compared to that of other parts of the United States. The New York Times reports [1] that that is due in part to restrictions on Puerto Rico's aid funds put in place by The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) under the previous president, Donald Trump.

HUD's Press Office on Tuesday issued a link to the full article [1].

Citing current and former officials and policy experts, the Times reports that those restrictions didn’t apply to other recipient states.

Now the Biden administration is working to remove some of those spending restrictions put in place after Maria, reports the Times. The current administration also reportedly has said it will release $1.3 billion in aid that Puerto Rico can use to protect against future climate disasters.

"The money is part of $20 billion that Congress provided HUD after Maria for recovery and for protection against future storms in Puerto Rico," the Times reported. "According to federal data, only $138 million, or about 0.7%, has been spent, a far lower rate than for funding that Congress provided HUD to help Texas, Florida, and other parts of the United States to rebuild after similar disasters.

The Times piece explores some of the reasons why Puerto Rico has been slower to receive its allotted funds: "Kenneth McClintock, a former Puerto Rico secretary of state and Senate president, said that the island had an admittedly slow and bureaucratic process to approve construction projects. But the Trump administration also tagged Puerto Rico as more corrupt [2] than other jurisdictions and delayed the disbursement of federal funds, to begin with, he said."

Reportedly, neither former HUD Secretary Benjamin Carson nor former President Trump responded to the Times' request for comment on the situation. But a HUD representative named Michael Burns told the paper that the effort by Biden to resume aid to Puerto Rico represents an attempt to “reset” its relationship with the island. He says this "will help the island build resilience to future storms and floods."