The official announcement comes almost two years after the passing of the 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season and includes $779 million for recovery in the US Virgin Islands along with $8.2 billion for Puerto Rico. These funds were previously authorized in February of 2018 by the U.S. Congress and were scheduled for disbursement after a finalized recovery plan for each territory was approved by HUD.
For Puerto Rico, which suffered an estimated 3,000 deaths due to Hurricane Maria with an estimated damage cost of $100 billion, the slow rollout of Federal funds has only deepened the cost of recovery. The material and human costs of the storm have led to a near economic collapse of the island and a mass exodus of professionals seeking off-island destinations to begin their lives anew.
Secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Ben Carson said, “This money will directly benefit the communities who have suffered substantial damage to homes, businesses, and infrastructure.” “Today’s announcement is an important milestone as we help the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild.” In similar fashion, the HUD press release called the funds an “unprecedented investment,” for Puerto Rico.
|HUD Secretary Ben Carson|
However, made explicitly clear in the title of each press release was the inclusion for both territories that “APPROVAL COMES WITH TIGHT FISCAL CONTROLS,” a statement missing from similar press releases regarding hurricane recovery in Texas and Florida.
Secretary Carson, quoted in the press release regarding Puerto Rico, went further to say that “Puerto Rico has a history of fiscal malfeasance, we are putting additional financial controls in place to ensure this disaster recovery money is spent properly.”
As if the long wait has not been enough, Carson’s department explained that, “HUD will impose strict conditions and financial controls on the use of the funds.”
Nothing like adding more obstacles to the long road of recovery. Oh, sorry, I think we are supposed to be thankful.