The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) had authorized $8.2 billion in funding for Puerto Rico under HUD’s Community Development Block Grant-Disaster Relief, or CDBG-DR, program.
The funds were allocated but were not actually provided to Puerto Rico. HUD had placed restrictions on the funds, including a special monitor who came on board in August 2020, “in response to reports of financial mismanagement and corruption in Puerto Rico.”
This position has now been eliminated.
Other restrictions included a requirement that the PROMESA oversight board approve spending plans before HUD funds were released and other extra layers of red tape.
In January of 2020, 41 members of Congress wrote to Ben Carson, then Secretary of HUD, saying, “It is your responsibility as secretary of HUD to provide members of Congress an explanation as to why your department has chosen to violate the law by withholding these critical resources. Puerto Ricans have waited too long.”
The letter concluded, “It is time we are provided with real answers and a definite date for the disbursement of the CDBG-DR funds for the island.”
In February, Biden Housing Secretary William Rodríguez, announced his intention to intensify efforts to get overdue funding to Puerto Rico. Rodriguez committed himself to the removal of “onerous restrictions” on the funding.
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi describes the lifting of restrictions as “great news” for Puerto Rico. Rodríguez said it shows that HUD and the administration have confidence in Puerto Rico’s management of recovery funding.
An amended plan for recovery has been published at Puerto Rico’s CDBG-MIT website.