Trump administration ending delay on over $8B in Puerto Rico disaster aid

The Trump administration is ending a months-long hold of more than $8 billion in disaster aid relief Congress appropriated for Puerto Rico, a senior Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) official confirmed early Wednesday. 

HUD has been authorized to administer nearly $20 billion to the island's hurricane relief efforts through its community development block grant. The money is intended to help Puerto Rico respond to the devastating hurricanes that ravaged it in 2017. But Politico, which first reported the administration's decision, noted that the island has so far only received $1.5 billion. 

Puerto Rico will be able to access the funds once HUD publishes a Federal Register notice on how it plans to distribute another $8.2 billion, according to the news outlet. The move is reportedly set to come about four months past the deadline. HUD said that the delay stemmed from an effort to ensure proper safeguards were in place for the apportioned funds. 

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“Now that a full financial monitoring team is assembled and active, we can move forward with confidence that these disaster recovery funds will reach those who need them the most,” a HUD official told Politico.

HUD's decision comes as Puerto Rico grapples with the aftermath of a series of damaging earthquakes and amid escalating pressure in Washington. Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - George Floyd's death sparks protests, National Guard activation Hillicon Valley: Trump signs order targeting social media legal protections | House requests conference with Senate after FISA vote canceled | Minneapolis systems temporarily brought down by hackers MORE (D-Calif.) last week called on the White House to stop its "unlawful withholding of funds from Puerto Rico." 

"There has been a disaster designated, but the ongoing withholding of funds appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico is illegal and we call upon the administration to cease and desist that illegal activity," she said. 

A group of Democratic lawmakers also urged HUD Secretary Ben CarsonBenjamin (Ben) Solomon CarsonCOVID-19 makes Trump's work with black Americans that much harder Sunday shows preview: Congress spars over next round of coronavirus relief; GOP seeks offensive after news of Flynn 'unmasking' On The Money: Small business loan program out of money | Lawmakers at impasse over new funds | Senate adjourns for week with no deal | Trump to leave decision on reopening economies with governors MORE to release the funds, The Washington Post noted.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón said in a statement to Politico that the funding is needed “now more than ever after the earthquakes.”

“It’s the best news in months,” she said, adding that she had discussed the issued with President TrumpDonald John TrumpMinneapolis erupts for third night, as protests spread, Trump vows retaliation Stocks open mixed ahead of Trump briefing on China The island that can save America MORE

Trump earlier this month approved federal emergency funding for Puerto Rico. The White House said that it had ordered the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide equipment and resources to respond to the earthquakes.