The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) on Friday announced  its approval of the U.S. Virgin Islands' latest disaster recovery action plan. An additional investment of $779 million was sanctioned by HUD to help support the state’s effort in rebuilding from hurricanes Maria and Irma.
The additional funds are provided through HUD’s Community Development Block Grant—Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) Program. The program is designed to address the lingering aftermath of unforeseen events such as hurricanes including serious damage to housing, business, and infrastructure.
Commenting on the approval of the recovery plan, Ben Carson, HUD Secretary said, “Today’s announcement is an important milestone as we help the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild.” He also pointed out that this money will directly benefit the communities who have suffered substantial damage. The recovery amount is required by HUD to be targeted especially to local communities that experienced the greatest impact. The announcement also stressed on the importance of spending the relief funds in a manner that helps disaster victims. HUD stated that it will impose strict conditions and financial controls on the use of these funds.
Last week, HUD had also announced the approval of Puerto Rico’s latest disaster recovery plan as well as the disbursement of $8.2 billion as part of the grant made available to the island’s recovery by Congress in 2018. Similar to funds allocated to the Virgin Islands, these also came with stringent HUD oversight. The heightened scrutiny of how these funds are spent in Puerto Rico's recovery include enhanced monitoring of expenses as well as other measures designed to ensure Puerto Rico's legal and prudent use of the funds, HUD said in its statement.
As part of its initiative to get communities affected by natural disasters back on their feet, HUD provides flexible grants to help cities, counties, and states recover from Presidentially declared disasters, especially in low-income areas—subject to availability of supplemental appropriations. In response to Presidentially declared disasters, Congress may appropriate additional funding for the CDBG-DR Program as Disaster Recovery grants to rebuild the affected areas and provide crucial seed money to start the recovery process, and help communities and neighborhoods that otherwise might not recover due to limited resources.