“This is a long-overdue but important step forward for Puerto Rico. The announcement means the Puerto Rican Housing Department can, at long last, move forward with its recovery planning process and help Puerto Ricans rebuild their lives. This is all the more urgent in light of the recent earthquakes and tremors, which have highlighted the precarious state of Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and the desperate need to expedite the recovery process.
But we should not lose sight of the fact that these funds were appropriated by Congress more than two years ago, and Congress mandated their release back in September. This inexcusable delay set the island back, as Puerto Ricans have been forced to rebuild on their own while the federal government turned a blind eye to their struggles.
Oxfam remains concerned that Puerto Ricans are being sidelined in the ongoing recovery process. The recently-named HUD financial monitor is another centralized response that will not truly guarantee transparency or efficient use of federal funds. It is Puerto Rican civil society that must be included to ensure recovery dollars actually go to those who need it most. We continue to call for the establishment of a Civil Society Task Force to ensure that funds for disaster recovery are spent effectively, transparently, and improve the resiliency of Puerto Rican communities.
Today’s announcement is just one step forward in a much larger process of Puerto Rico’s recovery, especially in light of the recent earthquakes. President Trump must immediately sign the major emergency disaster declaration to make FEMA funds available for disaster assistance. It’s inexcusable that the federal government is further delaying critically-needed funds while thousands of Puerto Ricans remain homeless, sleeping under tarps and trees.”