Democratic Reps. Stacey Plaskett (Virgin Islands) and Maxine Waters (Calif.) joined 10 other members of Congress to send a letter to, slamming the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) recent decision to delay disaster relief funding to the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico due to alleged corruption, fiscal irregularities and financial mismanagement.
“[The] conflating of any capacity issues in the Virgin Islands to unrelated challenges in Puerto Rico is absolutely inappropriate,” the lawmakers said in letter sent Wednesday to Housing Secretary Ben Carson. “The Virgin Islands Office of Disaster Recovery and the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Agency have done a tremendous job to improve financial controls and procurement processes, monitor subrecipients, assist with increased staffing, and provide other assistance needed to safeguard all federal disaster recovery funds. Those local agencies have been working with HUD, along with other federal agencies like the Department of Interior, for the Virgin Islands to ensure the proper use of funds that Congress has provided. The fiscal situation of the Virgin Islands has been steadily improving. Any additional administrative requirements related to capacity issues should be tailored to address such issues, and any Federal Register notice should take that into account.”
The letter highlighted the Virgin Islands’ longstanding track record of compliance and oversight with disaster recovery programs and the importance of the immediate disbursement of the funding, which they said will help families who are still suffering from natural disasters and ensure that HUD is complying with the law.
“The Virgin Islands has been and is prepared to do its part in helping its residents recover from devastating hurricanes,” stated the two-page letter, also signed by fellow Democratic Reps. Elijah Cummings (Md.) and Donald Payne (N.J.). “It has a yearslong, solid track record of compliance and oversight with the CDBG program and disaster recovery programs. HUD should reconsider as soon as possible its decision to exclude the Virgin Island’s CDBG-DR mitigation funding from being released at the same time as other grantees’ to prevent the delay of critical resources to help families rebuild their lives and ensure HUD is complying with the law.”