When Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria, congress quickly approved $50 billion in funding for disaster recovery. After almost 18 months have passed, and only a paltry $2.3 billion has been dispersed.
More than $47 billion worth of disaster recovery funds are sitting, unused, even while Puerto Rico is still struggling to get back on its feet.
U.S. Representative Darren Soto (FL – D) claims he is going to find answers.
Why are the disaster recovery funds not being distributed?
Normally, FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) works in conjunction with local government to distribute funds and organize recovery efforts. However in this case, because Puerto Rico is not a state of the union, FEMA is handling everything by itself.
The results speak for themselves. Less than 5% of relief funding still trapped in limbo and not being used to help anyone.
FEMA has not yet responded.
Soto has a been a vocal advocate for Puerto Rico relief efforts. His frustration is with the systemic failure of the government to provide tangible assistance, a feeling very common in the affected areas.
What happens next?
Soto and other members of the U.S. House Committee on Natural Resources is coming to visit the island in mid-march. This is a fact finding mission, where the politicians can see first hand the efforts being made, and how much more is needed.
The trip comes just before upcoming congressional oversight hearings. Soto hopes to make real change, and to break through the political gridlock that has plagued government recently.
Perhaps FEMA can be held accountable for their lack of action. Maybe by holding their feet to the fire, Soto and others can champion Puerto Rico and make sure the disaster recovery funds can finally be used as they were intended.
This is not a question of not having the money to help Puerto Rico. The money is there, approved by Congress and ready to distribute to local organizations and governments. The fact the money is not being used for disaster recovery as intended is both inexplicable and unconscionable.
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