Statement on Political Interference at HUD Aimed at Denying Puerto Rico Designated Relief Funds

WASHINGTON, DC -- In light of reports regarding disputes between U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) officials and the White House over disaster aid owed to Puerto Rico, the Power 4 Puerto Rico coalition issued the following statement and call to action:

“For more than a year we have sounded the alarm demanding transparency and accountability. When Congress passed a sweeping disaster aid package in February of last year, our coalition urged lawmakers not to take their foot off the pedal. While the Trump Administration was busy looking for praise for the authorization we said there was much more work left to do, including the enactment of proper safeguards to guide the use of funds in Puerto Rico.

“In April 2018, we urged Congress to remove the Financial Oversight and Management Board–the entity charged with repaying Puerto Rico’s debt–from any role in approving or overseeing expenditures of disaster funds for recovery, to avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Our calls went unheeded. In October, President Trump falsely claimed disaster funds were being diverted to line the pockets of Wall Street investors. Almost eight months after the passage of the disaster aid package, Puerto Rico had not received one single cent for its long-term rebuilding. There were no funds to be diverted.

“Now, months later, the Trump Administration has sought to make good on the threat to deprive Puerto Ricans of funds for their long-term rebuilding, nutritional assistance for low income families, and other crucial aid. Beyond disappointment, we are frustrated and angry.

“We must ensure that disaster funds are used as Congress intended, not blocked by this Administration to hurt other communities with its xenophobic and petty political agenda. To that end, we call on Congress to investigate, immediately schedule hearings, conduct oversight, and make use of subpoena powers wherever appropriate, to hold the Trump Administration and HUD accountable for playing politics with a humanitarian crisis.”