Watchdog blames Puerto Rico hurricane relief delays on Trump-era bureaucracy

Watchdog blames Puerto Rico hurricane relief delays on Trump-era bureaucracy
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Officials with the Department of Housing and Urban Development's (HUD) Office of the Inspector General are blaming the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) under former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' On student loans, Biden doesn't have an answer yet Grill company apologizes after sending meatloaf recipe on same day of rock star's death MORE for delays that held up desperately needed relief aid to Puerto Rico following two devastating hurricanes in 2017.

In a report released Thursday, HUD's top watchdog detailed how OMB officials required an unprecedented interagency review process for any disaster relief funds that were disbursed to the island. In addition, the agency demanded other concessions from Puerto Rico's government that hampered access to relief funds, according to the Post, including a suspension of its minimum wage law for employees of federal contractors.

The numerous demands caused friction between the agencies, the newspaper noted, leading former HUD Deputy Secretary Brian Montgomery to express HUD's “mounting concerns and frustrations” to then-acting OMB Director Russell Vought about “HUD’s inability to make progress” due to OMB regulations.

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Those regulations amounted to holding disaster relief funds "hostage" as millions of people on the island went without power or reliable drinking water for months, Montgomery added, according to the report.

Request for comment from HUD and OMB on the report were not immediately returned. Former top HUD officials, including ex-Secretary Ben CarsonBen CarsonSunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant Race is not central to Rittenhouse case — but the media shout it anyway Trump endorses primary challenger to Peter Meijer in Michigan MORE, refused to comply with the investigation, according to The Washington Post.

The HUD's new secretary, Marcia FudgeMarcia FudgeThe Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Biden talks, Senate balks Buttigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey Biden, top officials spread out to promote infrastructure package MORE, praised President BidenJoe BidenSunday shows preview: US reaffirms support for Ukraine amid threat of Russian invasion The Fed has a clear mandate to mitigate climate risks Biden says Roe v. Wade under attack like 'never before' MORE for removing several Trump-era restrictions on Puerto Rico relief aid in a statement to the Post.

"Since its first days, the Biden-Harris Administration has prioritized action to enable stronger recovery for Puerto Rico,” Fudge said.

The Biden administration, she added, would “unlock access to funds Puerto Rico needs to recover from past disasters and build resilience to future storms, while ensuring transparency and accountability" for federal funding. 

--Updated at 12:00 p.m.