Last week, HUD announced that it had finalized a grant agreement with Puerto Rico that would release $8.2 billion in CDBG-DR funding that Congress appropriated in 2018. In 2019, HUD ignored a statutory deadline to issue a Federal Register notice outlining how Puerto Rico can use the disaster relief aid in its ongoing recovery efforts. CLPHA released a statement in November 2019 calling on HUD to stop politicizing Puerto Rico’s disbursement and urging Congress to permanently authorize CDBG-DR to help prevent inconsistent delivery of critical aid.
Puerto Rico’s Department of Housing has 90 days to sign the grant agreement to receive access to the funding. HUD has released, though not yet published in the Federal Register, a notice detailing its guidelines for Puerto Rico’s use of a separate allocation of mitigation funds. The notice contains an extensive set of conditions required for Puerto Rico to use the funds, and the grant agreement for the recovery funding is expected to contain similar restrictions.
Beginning on December 28, Puerto Rico experienced a series of earthquakes and aftershocks, wreaking havoc on communities still recovering from hurricanes Maria and Irma. Last week, House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) introduced a bill that would provide $3 billion in additional recovery funding, including $2 billion in CDBG-DR funding. The bill includes language that would impose multiple deadlines on HUD to help ensure that HUD disburses the funds more quickly. In a joint statement with House THUD Subcommittee Chairman David Price (D-NC), Lowey and Price noted, “It’s s been 704 days since Congress appropriated disaster recovery funding for Puerto Rico to help our fellow Americans recover from devastating hurricanes” and stated that they will “carefully scrutinize any special conditions placed on these grants.”