Q&A – Puerto Rico Relief Money; Used Or Abused

Today’s entry - Does anybody think that within six months of this money going to Puerto Rico they're not going to be begging for more money? That's what Puerto Rico does, a couple of years ago we went on a cruise through Puerto Rico and the bus driver that was taking us around showing us the city spent three-quarters of the time talking about how clever they were because they were defrosting the United States of billions of dollars. Needless to say, most of the passengers on the bus were taxpaying Americans from the mainland and for some reason, this fellow felt the need the thumb his nose at us which upon reflection was probably the right thing to do since they're continually getting away with it.

Bottom Line: This isn’t the only note I’ve received sharing this perspective. For that matter, I’ve heard similar perspectives from Puerto Ricans that left the island, often prior to the 2017 hurricane season. We’ve also heard this argument used by numerous Republicans, including the President, though they ultimately supported this latest package of relief money that’s going to the island. So, what’s real? Let’s look at the money already provided to Puerto Rico for relief efforts from the 2017 hurricane cycle. 

According to the federal government, the figure is $40.5 billion. According to Puerto Rico’s “Recovery Office,” it’s $11.4 billion prior to the recently approved relief funds. What’s perhaps most odd is that according to Puerto Rico’s Recovery Office, only $5.7 billion had been dispersed and accounted for as of May. But that $11.4 billion is also only what had specifically been provided through FEMA funding. Other federal money that’s been earmarked for the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico include: 

  • $9.73 billion from Housing and Urban Development
  • $2.52 billion from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
  • $1.98 billion from the Small Business Administration
  • $1.27 billion from the Department of Agriculture
  • $299.5 million from Community Disaster Loan program

There’s literally no record keeping of, if or how this money has been used. Thus far, there are three Puerto Rican officials that have been arrested for illegal use of relief funds. There’s also an ongoing federal investigation of San Juan’s use of funds and awarding of contracts for relief projects. 

So, have relief funds been abused in Puerto Rico? Yes. How much? We don’t know. We do know, that half, $5.7 billion, of the previously allocated money from FEMA is either unused or unaccounted for, yet I’ve not heard this specifically addressed anywhere and couldn’t find any evidence of media outlets addressing this phenomenon in my research for this story. What about the earmarked $15.8 billion from non-FEMA agencies? I couldn’t find any record keeping on these funds within the Puerto Rican government. So yeah, throwing another $13 billion or so in “relief” into Puerto Rico comes with a healthy degree of skepticism from any objective observer.

Submit your questions by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Twitter: @brianmuddradio

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Photo by: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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