$2 billion in funding currently being held up by HUD inaction

 

Washington D.C. – Congressman Eliot Engel, a top member on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, joined a bicameral group of lawmakers in writing to Trump Administration officials calling for immediate action to release $2 billion in federal funds allocated to build new, resilient power grids in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Last year’s appropriations bill included funding to rebuild power grids damaged by Hurricane’s Maria and Irma in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. These new, resilient grids would better withstand future storms and help transition power to cleaner, renewable sources of fuel. However, in order to access the funds, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) must publish a Federal Notice to disburse the funds, which it has yet to do.

“It’s time for HUD and the Trump Administration to step up to the plate and help the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands,” Engel said. “The President likes to talk about how much he’s done for our fellow citizens there, when in reality his team has fallen woefully short. It’s been almost two years now since those massive storms hit, but little has been done to build a more resilient power system. There is no good reason for HUD to delay the release of these funds any further. My colleagues and I are calling for immediate action to remedy this crisis.”

“The Trump Administration has failed the citizens of Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, and its refusal to release billions of dollars in previously allocated funding to help the island repair its power grid is unconscionable. Puerto Rico needs a sustainable grid, and these funds are critical to the mission of rebuilding the island’s infrastructure. I thank Congressman Engel for his continued focus on the needs of Puerto Rico, and his commitment to their recovery,” said Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.

The letter was cosigned by members of the House and Senate. Text of the letter to Trump Administration officials can be found below:

June 27, 2019

Dear Secretary Carson, Secretary Perry, Acting Administrator Gaynor, and Director Mulvaney:

We write to urge the publication of the Federal Register Notice detailing the administrative requirements for the disbursement of the $2 billion Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) appropriated to improve and increase the resilience of the power grids in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. On February 9, 2018, the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018 (PL 115-123) was enacted into law. However, more than a year after enactment of the Act, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) has failed to publish the Federal Register Notice to disburse the CDBG-DR funds needed to rebuild resilient power grids in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The $2 billion in CDBG-DR HUD funding is meant to enhance and improve the electrical power systems in areas damaged by Hurricane Maria. In order for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to gain access to the appropriated funds, HUD must first publish a Federal Register Notice of administrative requirements. However, nearly a year and a half after the Bipartisan Budget Act was passed, HUD has failed to provide the required notice. Without the publication of the Federal Register Notice, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands will be unable to adequately establish action plans for the reconstruction of the electrical grids.

On April 11, 2019, Governor Ricardo Rossello signed S.B. 1121, Puerto Rico Energy Public Policy Act, into law. The purpose of this legislation is to transition Puerto Rico’s energy generation to 100% renewable energy by 2050. Through the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (PREPA), Puerto Rico is striving to use $900 million of their appropriated CDBG-DR HUD funding to rebuild the grid with a focus on the generation and distribution of renewable power. With the current high cost and unpredictability of power generation and distribution on the islands, the disbursement of the $2 billion in CDBG-DR HUD funding is essential to meet the goals of the Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Islands governments to alleviate power grid burdens.

Therefore, we urge the immediate publication of the Federal Register Notice detailing the administrative requirements for the disbursement of the $2 billion in CDBG-DR HUD funding to rebuild resilient, enhanced power grids in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. We must strive to enable the prosperity of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands by providing renewable, affordable, resilient, and reliable power. Thank you in advance for your attention to this matter.