HUD Withholding Hurricane Aid To Puerto Rico Until It Investigates Joe Biden
'We Are Standing.' 2017 USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez

While it's unlikely to make it into the articles of impeachment against Donald Trump, you could make a pretty good case that his treatment of the US territory of Puerto Rico rises to a pretty high crime, especially considering the thousands of American citizens who died in the months following Hurricane Maria in 2017 waiting for electricity and disaster relief. And all the time Trump insisted he was Puerto Rico's best friend. But it didn't happen on the mainland, and Trump's pretty sure Those People are just cheating real America, and honestly, it's so hard to keep up with all the horrors while the world is burning down around us.

More evidence that the president of the United States is happy to consign American citizens to hellish conditions because they're of no political use to him: Thursday, Democrats accused the administration of illegally holding up already-appropriated aid to the island. Nobody in the White House or the Department of Housing and Urban Development will say exactly why the aid is being held up, although at a hearing in October, after HUD missed a first deadline, HUD officials said the agency simply wanted to make sure "corruption" in the territory's government wouldn't prevent the aid from reaching the people. Obviously, it's much better to withhold the aid altogether to learn 'em a lesson.

As we've come to expect from the gang of criminals running the White House, it looks like the administration is fucking around with what should be routine governmental processes to punish Puerto Ricans for not loving Donald Trump enough. Or perhaps just for not being useful to him, since the territory can't even vote for president, so what good is it?

Congress passed the aid package nearly two years ago, but HUD blew past a September 4 deadline for paperwork necessary to release $10 billion in funding. Last week, the agency missed another deadline, this time for another $8 billion, prompting Democrats to demand HUD stop dragging its feet. At issue is a fairly routine bureaucratic process that's holding up money to rebuild homes and reinforce the island's infrastructure -- especially its electrical grid -- before next hurricane season. All Puerto Rico has to do is apply! Unfortunately, HUD refuses to issue the necessary guidelines so the territory can submit its applications, which would normally be a routine step.

After the first time HUD broke the law by holding up the aid, Rep. David Price (D-North Carolina), who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees HUD, held hearings to ask what the agency thought it was up to. HUD official David Woll explained that while the agency was able to approve the guidelines for 17 states that had also received federal disaster funds, Puerto Rico was a special case, because SO CORRUPT!

We had a difficult choice to make, protect the funds and come before you today to explain missing the deadline, or come before you in a year and explain why we released millions of dollars in funds that were wasted and did not go to the people that need it the most, which is the people of Puerto Rico.

Three months later, the agency still isn't allowing the aid to move, and nobody's saying why. At Thursday's presser, Rep. Joaquín Castro, the head of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said HUD officials, including Secretary Ben Carson, "knew their actions were illegal and yet they did it anyways," noting it's now been "over 90 days since the Trump administration knowingly broke the law by failing to comply with the deadline."

Carson too has echoed Donald Trump's line that Puerto Rico is simply too corrupt to receive any federal disaster funding, but Rep. Price isn't buying it, pointing out that a recent Inspector General report found that while Puerto Rico's housing department could use some improvements in how it does things, the IG also found no evidence of corruption. Beyond that, Price points out, the congressional funding bill already requires HUD to monitor the reconstruction funding as it's spent, and the IG has structures in place to do such audits.

So what's the continued holdup?

"I think all of us who are scratching our heads over this are wondering whether maybe all this traces back to some kind of order from the top or desire to please the president. We just don't know," Price said.

Gee ya think?

San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told Newsweek last week she thinks it's all about Donald Trump's contempt for Puerto Ricans in general, and his grudge that he hasn't been praised as the island's hero. "It's blatant racism. It's blatant discrimination."

She doesn't like the way HUD handles its disaster block grant program to begin with, much less when the department singles out Puerto Rico.

Cruz said she feels the entire system is designed to help big businesses and powerful people profit from the misfortunes of those whose communities were devastated by tragedy [...] She said local governments are required to choose from a certain list of contractors or companies to complete the major projects that they outline in action plans for HUD, which are required in order to receive the federal grants.

"For anyone from the federal government to be talking about corruption with the most corrupt president of the United States sitting on a chair an inch away from being impeached," Cruz added, "it's really the pot calling the kettle black."

Well sure. But what better way to teach those Puerto Ricans not to mess with Donald Trump than to show just how well he can take vengeance on them?

[Newsweek / NBC News / WNYC / NBC News / Image: US Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Caleb Nunez]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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