Q&A of the Day – Puerto Rican relief money. Used or Abused?
Each day I’ll feature a listener question that’s been submitted by one of these methods.
Facebook: Brian Mudd https://www.facebook.com/brian.mudd1
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 years ago we went on a cruise through Puerto Rico and the cut to the quick 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 tax paying 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 like note I’ve received sharing this perspective. Just the most recent. For that matter, I’ve heard similar perspectives from Puerto Ricans that’d 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 and he 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. Here’s other federal money that’s been earmarked for the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico:
- $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’d been arrested for illegal use of relief funds including one mayor. There’s also an ongoing federal investigation of San Juan’s use of funds and awarding of contracts for relief projects. In summary here’s what we know.
Have relief funds been abused in Puerto Rico? Yes. How much? We don’t know. We also 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. And 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.
That this is doubtless news to you shows how disinterested news media is generally in getting to the bottom of the truth here.