The Trump administration Wednesday attached severe restrictions to the $8 billion it released in disaster aid funding Puerto Rico, reports The New York Times.
Puerto Rico, which suffered devastating losses from Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and has received just $1.5 billion of the $20 billion in congressionally authorized disaster funds, will have to agree to pay federal contractors working on disaster relief less than $15 an hour.
Additionally, Puerto Rico’s government will have to agree to create a new system for registering properties and deeds and none of the disaster aid can go toward the island’s electrical grid.
Chase Jennings, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget at the White House, told the Times the move was “a great win for Puerto Ricans and U.S. taxpayers.
“The administration has outlined reforms for the grant agreement to Puerto Rico in order to protect resources,” he added.
Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez, D-N.Y., who grew up in Puerto Rico, slammed the move.
“We cannot afford for the Trump administration to repeat the mistakes of Maria, which cost thousands of our fellow citizens their lives,” Velazquez said in a statement, referring to the devastating 2017 hurricane.
“Our government must do better,” she tweeted.
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson said his agency held up the cash over concerns of “corruption.”
“The positive is that with the amount of money that’s going to Puerto Rico, and now having the appropriate controls in, I think there’s a possibility that it can become the jewel of the Caribbean,” Carson told reporters. “They can do amazing things and I’m really looking forward to tremendous development in Puerto Rico.”
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