The Biden administration said it would release $1.3 billion in aid that Puerto Rico can use to protect against future climate disasters, and is starting to remove some restrictions put in place by the Trump administration on spending that was to help the island after Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Administration officials, describing the move as a first step toward addressing racial inequality through policies designed to address climate change, said they planned to ease the limits that the Trump administration placed on another $4.9 billion in aid on the morning of Jan. 20, a few hours before the former president left office.
Puerto Rico’s reconstruction after Maria, which devastated the island more than three years ago, has been far slower than the recovery in other parts of the country, such as Texas and Florida, that were also struck by major disasters that year. That is partly because the Department of Housing and Urban Development had placed restrictions on Puerto Rico’s aid funds that didn’t apply to other recipients, according to current and former officials and policy experts. “That slow pace of disbursement has dampened Puerto Rico’s recovery,” said Rosanna Torres, Washington director for the Center for a New Economy, a Puerto Rican think tank.
The Miami Herald pointed to promises made in Biden’s plan.
In the Biden campaign plan for Puerto Rico, the president said he would “accelerate access to promised reconstruction funding” for the island and promised to “immediately instruct” the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and other federal government agencies to collaborate with the Puerto Rican government to distribute the money “efficiently” and “effectively” to the disaster-stricken island.
The two agencies that set aside the most funding for Puerto Rico recovery, according to both state and federal data — HUD and FEMA — have both set requirements considered onerous for the evaluation process for disbursements.
The positive responses to the news were instantaneous, both from organizations and individuals who have been protesting the ongoing abuse as well as legislators who have championed Puerto Rico in Congress.
A comment on the nasty last gasp from you-know-who.
As soon as the news broke, my phone started ringing. I got texts and a slew of direct messages on Twitter from folks who know that I have been following the lack of progress for Puerto Rico daily since Maria.
“… an award-winning editorial team out of Puerto Rico, consisting of journalists, photographers and editors. CPI’s stories have appeared throughout several global outlets and the group is considered one of the Puerto Rico’s most trusted journalistic organizations.”
It will be key to have independent journalists following the money once it finally gets to Puerto Rico.
President Biden has taken the first major step. It is imperative that once the funds arrive on the island, we follow the implementation of the long-delayed reconstruction. There is so much to be done.
For now, I’m elated. Elections have consequences, and in this case, they’re good ones.
Pa’lante, Puerto Rico.