When Congress passed a $36.5 billion disaster relief bill in October—an attempt to help Americans rebuild their lives in several wildfire and hurricane-damaged areas—it gave Puerto Rico a $4.9 billion loan instead of the grant that other areas received.
Now, according to the Intercept, it looks like the debt- and hurricane-ravaged island won’t even get THAT money.
El Nuevo Dia, Puerto Rico’s daily newspaper, says the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Treasury Department informed the Puerto Rican government on January 9 that they will not disburse the loan through the Community Disaster Loans Program, because it learned that Puerto Rico had a cash balance on December 29 of last year of $1.7 billion for ongoing operations.
The letter also cited $6.875 billion scattered in various local government accounts. Since the loan was supposed to fill a gap in day-to-day funding, FEMA somehow determined that Puerto Rico, which remains utterly devastated from the hurricane, does not need the money at this time.
FEMA says funds will be disbursed as soon as the “central cash balance decreases to a certain level”—then never specified what that level is.
Why must Puerto Rico receive assistance as loans rather than grants—unlike any other entity receiving disaster assistance? Why is the island being treated like a welfare recipient who has too much money in his bank account? Among US territories suffering from catastrophe, only Puerto Rico is being “means-tested.”
The Puerto Rican government says its state-run power and sewer companies will exhaust funding this month. Nearly half of the island’s citizens remain without power. With FEMA and the Treasury refusing to release government-approved loans, it’ll be difficult for the Puerto Rican government to float money to the power and sewer companies.
Puerto Rican officials have said Medicaid funding will run out early this year without the increased funding. Though this would seem to fit the definition of ongoing operations covered in the CDL program, FEMA and the Treasury did not reference Medicaid in their letter.
Puerto Rico, Day 122:
—More than 1 million people still w/o power (36% of the island)
—Hundreds of thousands still w/o clean water
—Still a humanitarian emergency
With the federal government now shut down, FEMA is partly out of work.https://t.co/wOFmGV6qlo
— Eric Holthaus (@EricHolthaus) January 20, 2018
An engineering firm contends that a $133MIL contract for Puerto Rico relief was inappropriately awarded to the firm of Trump’s former pick for a top FEMA position, who withdrew his nomination after NBC News revealed he'd been under federal investigation. https://t.co/QytM4V4kcS
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 17, 2018
"How many times can the U.S. government fail Puerto Rico?" https://t.co/fYLwVnH9ey
— Puerto Rico ?? (@PuertoRicoPUR) January 19, 2018
There are over 60,000 tarps still sitting in FEMA warehouses in #PuertoRico. Three months after the hurricane, thousands of residents do not understand why it is taking so long to get a tarp for their roof. pic.twitter.com/XC0jom8gIC
— Antonio Paris (@AntonioParis) January 12, 2018
"For three months, children had been sleeping on damp mattresses exposed to rainfall. Because the families couldn’t produce land deeds or proper paperwork, FEMA denied their aid requests." https://t.co/mkgMkTskx5
— Puerto Rico ?? (@PuertoRicoPUR) January 14, 2018
What do YOU think?
This article was published on fullreporter.com