Puerto Rico has still not rebuilt since Hurricane Maria hit the island in 2017.
The aid package would provide $4.7 billion in relief.
FEMA officials and Puerto Rican officials have been accused of wrongdoing.
Trump’s Admin has made rooting out corruption in the US territory a priority.
(NewsReady.com) – Democrats and the Trump Administration faced off over Earthquake relief funds for Puerto Rico. President Trump ultimately threatened to veto an emergency funding package in order to protect the Americans on the island.
Since Hurricane Maria ravaged the US territory in 2017, there have been fights over funding to rebuild. Those conflicts are now spilling over into the debate on emergency funding to help the island after it was hit with multiple earthquakes in late 2019 and early 2020.
The Aid Package
The aid package in question would provide Puerto Rico with $4.7 billion. House Democrats allocated $1.25 billion for road repairs, millions for nutrition and energy assistance, as well as schools. They also put aside $3.26 billion for community development grants.
The administration, however, says the proposal doesn’t go far enough to protect vulnerable citizens from fraud, waste, and corruption. The official veto message said nobody benefits when the aid is “misallocated, lost, or stolen through waste, fraud, and abuse.” It also pointed to well-known cases of corruption on the island.
Corruption Gone Wild
After Hurricane Maria, billions of dollars in aid poured onto the island to help the Americans affected by the disaster. Unfortunately, corrupt officials took advantage of that.
In July 2019, nearly two years after Hurricane Maria, the FBI arrested two of then-Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s former senior officials. The law enforcement agency accused Ángela Ávila Marrero and Julia Keleher of directing federal funding to contractors who were politically connected. At the time of their arrests, the feds also nabbed two contractors, an accounting executive, and a consultant. The executive and consultant were both charged with money laundering.
Eventually, the corruption led to the resignation of the governor, but he and his officials weren’t the only problems.
Ahsha Tribble, a former Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) administrator and Donald Keith Ellison, former president of Cobra Acquisitions, were also put in jail. Tribble allegedly took bribes from Ellison, who was given $1.8 billion in federal contracts.
Unused Aid Supplies Found
In addition to the above financial corruption, a warehouse containing aid supplies donated over two years ago after Maria stormed through, was found in the city of Ponce. Items like baby food, diapers, cots, and bottled water went unused when supplies were critically short. The investigation led to three more government officials losing their jobs last month.
Although it’s not ideal, the Trump Administration really has no choice. There must be a system put in place to protect taxpayers and the people of Puerto Rico. Now, House Democrats will have to go back and put more measures in place. If they move forward, the emergency funding will almost certainly not make it through the Senate.
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