Federal Watchdog Probes Possible 'Interference' In Puerto Rico Aid

The investigation was launched by the Department of Housing and Urban Development's inspector general's office.
Posted at 7:12 AM, Mar 27, 2019

The Department of Housing and Urban Development's internal watchdog is looking into whether there was "any interference" with the distribution of disaster aid for Puerto Rico following 2017's Hurricane Maria.

That's what Jeremy Kirkland, an attorney for HUD's inspector general's office, told a congressional subcommittee on Tuesday.

According to Kirkland, the inspector general's office green-lit the inquiry after lawmakers requested it look into whether the Trump administration purposefully slowed down sending money to the U.S. territory.

It's important to note that HUD's inspector general can only investigate the agency's own policies, people and programs — it has no authority to look into the White House. But if the office was to uncover any interference by a member of the Trump administration outside of HUD, that information would be referred to another agency.

Maria was the first Category 4 storm to directly hit Puerto Rico in about 85 years. Afterwards, HUD announced it would give disaster recovery grants totaling about $20 billion.

But the partial government shutdown earlier this year caused some delays at HUD, and it only just sent the first $1.5 billion of that total in February.

As Newsy's previously reported, President Donald Trump has pushed back against allocating any more federal money for Puerto Rico's recovery since he believes officials are misusing funds. Although there's no evidence Puerto Rico is doing so.

Additional reporting from Newsy affiliate CNN.