WASHINGTON — After months of delay, the Department of Housing and Urban Development has agreed to let Puerto Rico gain access to nearly $8.3 billion in disaster mitigation funding.
The decision to publish guidelines for the aid in the Federal Register means the hurricane-ravaged U.S. territory can begin tapping money aimed at helping communities withstand future disasters. Puerto Rico is now suffering from earthquakes that damaged hundreds of homes as it awaits the promised aid.
“This represents an advance in the disbursement of emergency funds that we need so much,” said Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, the island’s Republican congressional delegate, who hailed the decision in a statement.
The money had been caught in a political crossfire between Democrats pushing for immediate delivery and the Trump administration, which expressed worries about corruption. A HUD official confirmed Wednesday that a notice would now be issued outlining rules for the grant money.
The decision to release the funds was first reported by Politico.
The move came more than four months a Sept. 4 deadline set by Congress last year to publish the notice. In a letter to HUD last week, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer of New York and other senior Democrats said it was “unconscionable” for the department to hold up the aid by not publishing the notice. “HUD’s failure to do so is a violation of the law,” they wrote.