Jenniffer González pleads for the early disbursement of federal recovery funds
Washington, DC- Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón, along with 15 other congressmen from both parties, urged the Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson, to disburse the funds for Development Community for Determined Subsidy - for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), approved in February as part of an emergency relief package.
In addition to the resident commissioner, the letter was signed by the representative Garret Graves (R-LA); the senators for Florida, Marco Rubio (R) and Bill Nelson (D); Senators from Louisiana, John Kennedy (R) and Bill Cassidy (R); the representatives Michael T. McCaul (R-TX); Randy K. Weber (R-TX); Brian Babin (R-TX); Clay Higgins (R-LA); John Culberson (R-TX); Cedric Richmond (D-LA); Ralph Abraham (R-LA); Carlos Curbelo (R-FL); Al Lawson (D-FL); and the delegate of Virgin Islands, Stacey Plaskett.
In the letter, the congressmen stress that, compared to the management of emergency funds by other federal agencies, HUD has not worked with the haste they deserve.
"Our communities remain vulnerable to the hurricane season without having been able to use the funds for disaster mitigation. While we recognize and support the effort to ensure good use of taxpayer funds, other agencies that have received emergency funds as part of the same supplemental allocation have already disbursed funds for projects, "reads part of the letter.
Under the Bipartite Budget Law approved last February, $ 28 billion was allocated to subsidize CDBG-DR funds. From these funds, on April 10, the announcement was made that Puerto Rico would receive $ 18.5 billion; HUD's largest allocation in its history and the largest it has received in Puerto Rico.
Last week, HUD published in the Federal Register the rules for the disbursement of the first $ 8,220,783,000 for unmet housing, economic development, infrastructure and other needs, applicable to the 78 municipalities.
Within these rules, there is the requirement to present an action plan by the Government of Puerto Rico for the disbursement of the funds, but since HUD approved the one that was submitted for the allocation of the first $ 1,500 million, the government only has to amend and update the submission and it is not necessary to make public hearings again.
The Government of Puerto Rico must publish the amended action plan for public review for at least 30 days, then respond to the comments of the public and submit the amended plan to HUD and publish its final version.
Once HUD receives the plan, it has 45 days to approve it or not, if not approved, an additional 45 days will be granted to attend the accusations.
The rules for the $ 2 billion that the resident commissioner announced for the repair of the electrical system are pending for another publication on the rules of its disbursement, as well as the rest of the allocation.
This expansion of the process, disagrees with the original intention of Congress that these funds are emergency for the damage suffered and the imminent threat of other natural disasters.
"On behalf of the communities around the country that seek to rebuild, we cannot continue to wait, to be on the lookout for the CDBG-DR funds. We urge your agency to act quickly to publish the notification of requirements in the federal registry so that critical mitigation projects can be built and completed ... we urge HUD to ensure that taxpayers' money can support mitigation efforts before they can the next storm devastates our communities, "reads the letter.
Photo taken at Barranquitas, a mountain municipality in the central region of Puerto Rico that was heavily damaged.