Washington, D.C. — Two years after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island of Puerto Rico, Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement:
Two years have passed since Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico, and today we remember the more than 3,000 people who died as a result of the worst natural disaster in the island’s history. Despite clear indications that many died due to the abysmal federal response after the storm, the Trump administration has learned nothing and continues to obstruct the proper resources needed to overcome this tragedy. After all this time, only a small fraction of the relief and reconstruction federal funds approved by Congress for the island have been allocated as a result of the administration’s anti-Puerto Rican, racist disaster policies. Congress also must continue to act to hold the administration accountable and must deliver on legislation to address the impending Medicaid cliff, which faces depletion of the program’s operating funds by January 2020, as well as to reform the Financial Oversight and Management Board created by PROMESA.
Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of the Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy Initiative at the Center for American Progress, added:
Puerto Rico will never be able to recover and rebuild if critical resources continue to be withheld by the Trump administration. Of the roughly $20 billion dollars allocated by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recover, only $1.5 billion has been approved and less than $200 million spent. Moreover, HUD has not even published the guidelines to use $8.3 billion of those funds, something required by law and due last September 4 2019.
Although electrical power service has been flimsily restored, the system needed in Puerto Rico to save thousands of lives when the next big hurricane hits the island has yet to be installed. Mayors of municipalities on the island continue to wait for the reimbursement for millions of dollars that they already spent from very scarce budgets on cleanup and debris removal.
Finally, Congress must consider the utter failure of the unelected Financial Oversight and Management Board imposed on Puerto Rico by PROMESA. Legislation announced to be introduced by Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) would require an audit of Puerto Rico’s public debt, which would deliver reasonable and sustainable debt reduction and settlements; protect essential services for the population; generate plans for economic growth and development for Puerto Rico; and provide additional federal funding for the board so that Puerto Rico doesn’t continue to foot the bill for this bloated bureaucracy.
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