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Biden administration moves to free up $1.3 billion in funding for Puerto Rico

The Biden administration is freeing up an additional $1.3 billion in relief funding to Puerto Rico as it moves to ease restrictions on the aid put in place during the Trump administration, officials said Tuesday.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), in partnership with Puerto Rico's housing agency, approved the release of the money through the Community Development Block Grant Mitigation program. The $1.3 billion, which was allocated by Congress, can be used to guard against future climate related disasters.

“HUD and the Biden Administration are committed to working with Puerto Rico to reset our relationship on the island’s recovery efforts, and the action we are taking today will play a key role in this effort by ensuring that Puerto Rico is able to access and spend critical disaster and recovery funds on urgent unmet needs,” Arthur Jemison, a HUD official, said in a statement.

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The administration is still working with island agencies to release another roughly $5 billion in funds that were restricted under Trump administration regulations, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiOvernight Defense: Biden nominating first female Army secretary | Israel gets tough on Iran amid nuclear talks | Army's top enlisted soldier 'very proud' of officer pepper sprayed by police Israel gets tough with Iran as Biden signals shift from Trump Shocking killing renews tensions over police MORE said.

Tuesday's announcement came a day after Psaki said the Biden administration is working to free up funding for Puerto Rico intended for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria that had been held up during the previous administration.

Congress allocated more than $60 billion in aid for Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane devastated the island, knocking out its power grid and crippling its infrastructure. But only roughly $20 billion has been distributed to the territory thus far.

Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiWhere to, Puerto Rico? Puerto Rico debt restructure plan threatens public pensions Democrats offer bill on Puerto Rico statehood MORE told The Washington Post last week that he had been in touch with Biden administration officials about releasing the remaining money, which was restricted by the Trump administration amid concerns about corruption on the island.