The Trump administration is reportedly planning to place restrictions on billions in aid to Puerto Rico, as the island continues to contend with a weeks-long political crisis that resulted in the resignation of its governor.
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According to a report from The Washington Post, the White House wants to impose new limitations on about $8.3 billion in Housing and Urban Development disaster mitigation funding to Puerto Rico, in addition to about $770 million in similar funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands.
It’s unclear when the restrictions will go into place and the extent to which they could delay or affect distribution of aid to Puerto Rico. The mitigation funds pay for projects on housing and other infrastructure to prepare them for natural disasters; in 2017, Hurricane Maria, ravaged the island, killing an estimated 2,975.
The crackdown on funding comes as Puerto Rico grapples with one of the worst political crises in its history. At the end of July, Ricardo Rosselló announced his resignation as governor more than a week after hundreds of offensive online chats between he and his top advisers were published. Those profanity-laced and misogynistic messages ultimately led to mass protests, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets to call for his resignation.
During his time in office, Rosselló fought austerity measures, seeking federal funds after Maria devastated the island, causing more than $100 billion in damage. At the time, President Trump faced criticism from Democrats for suggesting the U.S. territory was to blame for its financial struggles.
The funding restriction will likely reignite those criticisms. Almost two years after Maria, Puerto Rico has received less than a third of the $42 billion pledged by the U.S. government.
Officials with knowledge of the issue told the Post, however, that $8.3 billion in funding will still go to the island, although it’s unclear when.
Rosselló will nominate former U.S. Rep. Pedro Pierluisi as secretary of state, essentially making him next in line to lead the island, according to Fox News. Pierluisi was defeated by Rosselló in the 2016 primaries. It’s not clear whether he has the necessary support for confirmation.
The turmoil comes as Puerto Rico struggles with a 13-year recession, which has led to an exodus of nearly half a million people over the past decade.