01.16.20

Disaster Funds Appropriated By Congress Are Not Discretionary

. . . Statement On The Latest Development On Delivering Aid To Puerto Rico

[More than 850 days after the first of two category five hurricanes struck the island of Puerto Rico, Politico reported that the Department of Housing and Urban Development will be lifting its unjustifiable hold on $8.2 billion in disaster aid appropriated by Congress.  For more than two years, Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) has repeatedly called out President Trump and his administration for dragging their feet and prolonging the suffering of the American citizens of Puerto Rico.]

It has been 851 days since Hurricane Maria, the first of two category five hurricanes, destroyed the homes, businesses and lives of the American citizens of Puerto Rico, and 131 days since President Trump and his administration broke the law by failing to comply with a deadline set by Congress to deliver on appropriated funds to help the island recover.  There is no justifiable reason for this petty and egregious treatment of the people of Puerto Rico, and we should not laud these simple steps forward amidst a barrage of unjustifiable delay and the continued suffering of American citizens.

Because this development is just that:  Simple steps that should have been taken a long time ago.  This delay has real consequences.  Homes, businesses, and hospitals remain in disrepair, and today children remain at home because dilapidated schools that should have been rebuilt and reinforced long ago were rendered unusable following the recent earthquakes on the island.

The details of this announcement have yet to be released.  As Vice Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Committee, I will be watching closely as this process hopefully moves forward, and I challenge the administration to establish a process that will actually facilitate getting this aid to the people of Puerto Rico rather than impeding it. 

I would remind the President and Secretary Carson that funds appropriated by Congress and signed into law are just that – the law.  The administration cannot pick and choose which parts of the law to follow.  These funds are not left to the whims, moods, or pettiness of the administration, and there is no justifiable explanation for this unprecedented and immoral delay. 

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