Connecticut Federal & State Leaders Demand Housing Agency Remove Unprecedented Obstructions of Puerto Rico Diaster Funds
[HARTFORD, CT] – Today, U.S. Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Connecticut Governor Ned Lamont, U.S. Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT), and U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), John Larson (D-CT), Joe Courtney (D-CT), Jim Himes (D-CT), and Jahana Hayes (D-CT) called on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately remove undue restrictions and delays placed on $16.5 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) disaster mitigation and recovery funds for Puerto Rico.
Inexcusably delayed by over two years, and almost five months after the statutory deadline, HUD’s notice laying out guidelines for the disbursement of the $8.3 billion in disaster mitigation funds came alongside burdensome conditions in the grant agreement for the remaining $8.2 billion in disaster recovery funds. Such delays and restrictions were not imposed on any of the other nine states that received similar funding. HUD’s notice and grant agreement come as the island continues to grapple with recovery from multiple natural disasters.
“The federal government has an obligation to treat Puerto Rico like every other state and territory. Our fellow Americans on the island have every right to access disaster funding free from egregious, unique, and discriminatory preconditions or delays. We demand that HUD cease its obstruction and amend the grant agreement to withdraw current restrictions immediately,” the officials wrote.
Blumenthal led a similar letter to HUD condemning these obstructions with U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).
The full text of the letter is available here and copied below.
Dear Secretary Carson:
We write to express our serious concerns with the unprecedented restrictions and delays imposed upon the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for the disbursement of $16.506 billion in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds for disaster mitigation and recovery. These conditions and obstructions on grant funding come as the island continues to recover from multiple natural disasters, including recent earthquakes and hurricanes Maria and Irma. On behalf of our constituents and local elected officials in Connecticut, we strongly urge the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to reverse course by putting an end to unnecessary delays and removing harmful restrictions.
The law appropriating relief funds required HUD to publish disaster mitigation funding notices for all grantees affected by recent natural disasters within 90 days of June 6, 2019. The agency proceeded to publish guidelines for all recipients by the statutory deadline – except Puerto Rico, a deliberate failure to fulfill Congress’ clear mandate. On January 27, 2020, after almost five months of inexcusable delay, HUD finally published a notice in the Federal Register for the disbursement of $8.285 billion in disaster mitigation funds for Puerto Rico. Not only is this notice entirely too late, but also it comes alongside the release of strict stipulations in the grant agreement for an additional $8.22 billion in CDBG disaster recovery funds that will seriously slow Puerto Rico’s ability to implement its recovery plan. HUD’s actions make it more difficult for our fellow Americans on the island to receive desperately needed assistance to protect their homes and communities from future disasters.
As elected officials representing a vibrant Puerto Rican community in Connecticut, we are particularly outraged that HUD is requiring Puerto Rico to agree to restrictions not imposed on any of the other nine states that received guidelines for the disbursement of funds. These severe terms and conditions include a complex web of oversight for the release of recovery funds, the creation of a system of property registry that ignores local property law, a prohibition on the use of funds for reinforcing and improving Puerto Rico’s vital electrical grid, and a disregard for the island’s $15-an-hour minimum wage for federally funded projects. We fear that these stipulations will only further exacerbate the alarming health and safety situation on the island – making it more unlikely that the most vulnerable populations will receive timely aid, and adding even more delay to the actual release of funds.
The federal government has an obligation to treat Puerto Rico like every other state and territory. Our fellow Americans on the island have every right to access disaster funding free from egregious, unique, and discriminatory preconditions or delays. We demand that HUD cease its obstruction and amend the grant agreement to withdraw current restrictions immediately.
We expect your prompt attention to this request and look forward to your response.
 Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Act, 2019, Public Law 116-20, U.S. Statutes at Large 133 (2019): 871-902. https://www.congress.gov/116/plaws/publ20/PLAW-116publ20.pdf.
 Office of the Assistant Secretary for Community Planning and Development, HUD, Allocations, Common Application, Waivers, and Alternative Requirements for Community Development Block Grant Mitigation Grantees; Commonwealth of Puerto Rico Allocation, by Benjamin Carson, Sr., Notice 85 FR 4676, Federal Register (Washington, DC, 2020). https://www.federalregister.gov/documents/2020/01/27/2020-01334/allocations-common-application-waivers-and-alternative-requirements-for-community-development-block.
 HUD Announces Second Recovery Grant Agreement with Puerto Rico, Making $8.2 Billion Available, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, 2019. https://www.hud.gov/press/press_releases_media_advisories/HUD_No_20_007.