White House threatens to veto House bill to aid Puerto Rico earthquake recovery

a photo of power lines in Puerto Rico

The White House on Wednesday formally threatened to veto a House bill that would provide billions of dollars in additional funding for earthquake relief in Puerto Rico.

The House is set to vote later this week on legislation that would allocate $4.7 billion in funds after the island, still reeling from 2017’s Hurricane Maria, was devastated by multiple earthquakes last month.

The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) said President Trump would veto the “misguided” bill, citing the administration’s past efforts to assist the island in recovery efforts and raising questions about the prudence of providing additional aid to the Puerto Rican government. The OMB also accused House Democrats of rushing the legislation.

“Neither Puerto Ricans nor the American taxpayers benefit when emergency aid is misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse,” the White House said in its veto threat.

“Puerto Rico has a long history of inadequate financial controls over regular government operations, which forced the Congress to appoint a financial control board in 2016,” the White House added. “Multiple high-profile cases of corruption have marred distribution of aid already appropriated and have led to ongoing political instability on the island.”

Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), who introduced the bill, said in a statement Wednesday that the legislation would “help families and communities recover from these devastating earthquakes and puts Puerto Rico on a better path to long-term recovery.” 

The legislation would also establish requirements for how and when the Trump administration disperses aid to Puerto Rico, a feature that likely frustrated the White House.

Trump has long expressed skepticism about providing significant amounts of aid to Puerto Rico while simultaneously giving his administration high marks for its response to Hurricane Maria and pointing to tens of billions of dollars already allocated to the island.

That storm crippled island infrastructure for months, and a government-commissioned study found that nearly 3,000 people died as a result of the hurricane.

The latest round of earthquakes has damaged critical infrastructure and left hundreds of thousands of residents without power.

Tags disaster relief Donald Trump Nita Lowey Puerto Rico

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