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US Dangling disaster relief funds, White House to require Puerto Rico to implement reforms

01:40  16 january  2020
01:40  16 january  2020 Source:   washingtonpost.com

Strong, 5.2 magnitude earthquake in Puerto Rico

  Strong, 5.2 magnitude earthquake in Puerto Rico A 5.2 magnitude earthquake cracked walls and brought down power lines in Puerto Rico on Friday as the Caribbean island was trying to recover from its worst quake in over a century on Tuesday. © Reuters People rest at a camp set up in a lot next to their homes after the earthquake in Yauco, Puerto Rico, January 9, 2020. REUTERS/Marco Bello The latest temblor took place at 6:26 p.m. (5:26 p.m. EST), with its epicentre around 4 km (2.5 miles) from Indios on the island's southern coast, the U.S. Geological Service reported.Local residents posted tweets showing damage from the quake, which one described as "super strong.

Before Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico ’s worst natural disaster in nearly a century, the island was already grappling with insolvency. While funds from the previous aid packages went to FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, the latest relief package will give money directly to the Puerto Rican

White House officials have told congressional leaders and appropriators that President Donald Trump does not want any additional relief funding sent to Puerto Rico , a congressional leadership aide told CNN on Monday.

PONCE, Puerto Rico — The Trump administration plans to impose several new requirements on billions of dollars in aid for Puerto Rico, including a new restriction on the wages paid by the island’s government to contractors working on disaster relief, according to two officials with knowledge of the plan.

A Puerto Rican flag was placed among the rubble of the Ely Mer Mar hardware store, which partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)© Carlos Giusti/AP A Puerto Rican flag was placed among the rubble of the Ely Mer Mar hardware store, which partially collapsed after an earthquake struck Guanica, Puerto Rico, on Jan. 7. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

The White House has for months worked to enact new restrictions on about $8 billion in disaster mitigation aid Congress approved for the island, which was hit this month with recurring earthquakes just two years after Hurricane Maria devastated much of the U.S. territory.

Magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocks Puerto Rico

  Magnitude 5.9 earthquake rocks Puerto Rico A magnitude 5.9 earthquake shook Puerto Rico Saturday morning, the most recent in a string of quakes and afterschocks that have left thousands on the island without power and water.The 8:54 a.m. quake struck 8 miles southeast of Guanica at a shallow depth of 3 miles, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The White House doubled down Wednesday on President Donald Trump's comments opposing disaster funding for Puerto Rico On Tuesday, Trump told Republican legislators at a closed-door Capitol Hill meeting that Puerto Rico had gotten too much money to rebuild after Hurricane Maria.

Puerto Rico is now convulsing with a force it had not seen since 1918. A magnitude 6.4 quake that struck last Puerto Ricans in the diaspora are raising funds from afar in order to support the residents of Guayanilla At the White House , President Trump has remained publicly silent on the matter.

Under the parameters the Trump administration is proposing, Puerto Rico’s government will have to agree to give new oversight authority to the island’s federally mandated Fiscal Control Board — an appointed, independent government body — to receive funding for certain federal projects, officials said. Puerto Rico also will have to agree to pay federal contractors working on disaster relief less than $15 an hour, despite a recent executive order mandating the rate.

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Puerto Rico’s government also will have to agree to create a new system for registering properties and deeds, a move aimed at curbing fraud in requests for federal reimbursement, according to the officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal plans. A fourth requirement would mandate that none of the disaster mitigation funding go toward the island’s electrical grid, which is notoriously frail and has at times left residents without power for months.

Puerto Rico slightly more likely to be hit by major quake in coming week, USGS predicts

  Puerto Rico slightly more likely to be hit by major quake in coming week, USGS predicts Puerto Rico is slightly more likely to be hit with an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 or higher over the next week, the U.S. Geological Survey said, after an intense aftershock Saturday led the agency to tweak its statistical models. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); In an “Aftershock Forecast” updated Sunday, the USGS said the chance of a magnitude 6.0 earthquake or higher was 11% — up from 7% a week ago. However, the chance of a magnitude 7.0 earthquake remained at just 1%.

Until Congress acted, Puerto Rico 's Medicaid funding was weeks away from running out. "We applaud Congress for moving forward the Medicaid funding Religious leaders in Puerto Rico and across the United States have advocated for Medicaid financing with Congress and the White House for more

Jan 15- Puerto Rico will be allowed access to .2 billion in delayed disaster -aid funding by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Access to the funds should come as a relief for Puerto Rico after ratings agency Moody's Investors Service said on Tuesday the earthquakes posed

The Department of Housing and Urban Development, which has been working with White House officials, is expected to tell the Puerto Rico government about the proposed restrictions this week, the officials said.

Puerto Rico has been rocked by multiple disasters in the past two years, beginning with Hurricane Maria in 2017 and followed by a political corruption crisis last year involving the arrests of top government officials and the eventual ouster of the island’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló. This month’s earthquakes, primarily affecting the southwest region of the island, have left entire communities fearful of living in their homes and have further exacerbated infrastructure problems that were never resolved after Maria.

Puerto Rico’s central government estimated the earthquakes caused $110 million in damages to at least five different municipalities, but local mayors are confident that number will balloon, as there are continuing temblors and damage assessments are underway. Many communities are still waiting for money promised after Hurricane Maria, such as in Ponce, where the municipal government is hoping for funds for hundreds of sites needing reconstruction, including roads, storm water management systems and other public works projects. So far, three have received approval.

Puerto Rico: California sent 35 disaster specialists after earthquakes shook the island for nearly a week

  Puerto Rico: California sent 35 disaster specialists after earthquakes shook the island for nearly a week California sent 35 disaster specialists to Puerto Rico following a series of earthquakes that have caused extensive damage and power outages on the Island. © CA Governor's Office of Emergency Services California sent 35 disaster specialists to Puerto Rico following a series of earthquakes. Governor Gavin Newsom announced the plan Saturday after a 5.9 earthquake shook the island still recovering from a week of quakes and tremblors.

Puerto Rico governor to Trump: Come, see the pain. Those measures include state revolving funds that could be used by Puerto Rico to rebuild water systems that have sustained House Democrats have also said they oppose the Senate Republican relief effort, arguing, like Senate Democrats, that

Puerto Rico and its advocates have long detested the Jones Act for driving up prices on the island.) It’s true that years of deferred maintenance, due to lack of funds , made Puerto Rico ’s electric grid Getting adequate support in the months and years after a major disaster is a constant battle for

“The help comes, but it comes one drop at a time,” said Elizabeth Ocasio, deputy mayor of Ponce. “We needed to strengthen these structures after the hurricane. Now, we have greater damage.”

Congressional Democrats and Puerto Rico officials have denounced the Trump administration for stalling aid that could assist the island’s slow and difficult recovery. Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), who chairs the committee that oversees U.S. territories, said the process is starting to move, but Puerto Rico faces a specific set of challenges as a cash-strapped island pressured under an austerity program.

“This has been a painful delaying tactic,” Grijalva said.

Trump and Republican lawmakers have seen the governor’s corruption scandal as vindication of their demands for more stringent oversight of the spending of federal funds on the island. The Trump administration is also aiming to curb how much of the funding could go to the electrical grid, believing that money for repairing it has already been wasted.

“President Trump is committed to helping the people of Puerto Rico while also ensuring that taxpayer dollars are not wasted. In a great win for Puerto Ricans and U.S. taxpayers, the administration has outlined reforms for the grant agreement to Puerto Rico in order to protect resources,” said Chase Jennings, a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget.

Puerto Ricans hoping Trump signs major disaster declaration

  Puerto Ricans hoping Trump signs major disaster declaration Four thousand people are still in shelters and many others are sleeping outside after yet another earthquake on Saturday.A 5.9 magnitude earthquake shook southwestern Puerto Rico on Saturday just before 9 a.m. It was the strongest since last week's 6.4 quake. More than 2,000 tremors have occurred since December 28.

Bossert traveled to Puerto Rico alongside FEMA Administrator Brock Long on Monday to assess damage and federal needs. Defending the federal response in Puerto Rico as "anything but slow" Monday, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the administration will be able to

" Puerto Rico still can't get the disaster relief it needs," Gillibrand tweeted , "but Trump is going to use that money to deepen the disaster he created at Does reprogramming these funds cut into money earmarked for Puerto Rico ? And will it ultimately hurt FEMA's ability to respond to catastrophic events?

The administration’s proposal to give more oversight authority to the fiscal board could prove the most politically explosive, as some congressional Democrats have attacked the body as undemocratic, given that Puerto Ricans are not allowed to choose its members. The board was created under the Obama administration to help manage the island’s debt crisis.

José B. Carrión III, chairman of the fiscal board, said in an interview that more authority “is not something we sought” but that the board is happy to help the federal government get more funding out the door.

“We are not looking at this as a power play,” Carrión said. “We want to do our part so the federal government feels comfortable, and the funds flow to the people of Puerto Rico who need them. We want to get away from Puerto Rico being a problem situation.”

Congress has approved $42 billion for the island’s recovery, but only a portion of that money has been allocated.

The $8.3 billion in disaster mitigation funding was approved by Congress to protect parts of the island prone to natural disasters, such as by building water pumps where flash flooding occurs, said Deepak Lamba-Nieves, research director at Puerto Rico’s Center for a New Economy.

Earlier this month, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) accused the Trump administration of illegally holding the money and called on the White House to “cease and desist.”

Some Puerto Ricans who have been highly critical of Trump’s handling of the island’s struggles said the new restrictions might be needed given the corruption that has been exposed among some of its officials.

“Everybody knows President Trump has severely criticized the people of Puerto Rico, and in some cases offended them,” said Ramón Luis Nieves, a former state senator on the island. But he noted that there are “legitimate concerns over corruption in the local government of Puerto Rico. It will take time for the Puerto Rico government to reestablish its credibility in front of the federal government.”

Stein reported from Washington.

'Oasis of the Seas' cruise ship passenger dies after going overboard .
A passenger on the Royal Caribbean cruise ship "Oasis of the Seas" has died after going overboard in Puerto Rico. © Carlos Giusti/AP Local authorities join the U.S. Coast Guard on the search of a person who reportedly went overboard from a cruise ship just off Puerto Rico's north shore, in San Juan, Puerto Rico, Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. A team of divers from the Puerto Rico Police and the San Juan Municipal Police recovered the body of a Florida man who had gone overboard while the ship was docked in Old San Juan Wednesday night, U.S. Coast Guard officials said.

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