Congress has appropriated $35 billion in federal funds to provide aid to victims of three big hurricanes in 2017, but little of that money has been spent, according to a report by the General Accountability Office released earlier this week.
Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria caused an estimated $265 billion in damage, concentrated in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. As of February 2019, lawmakers had provided more than $35 billion in Community Development Block Grant Disaster Recovery funds to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, to be used for housing, infrastructure and economic revitalization. But very little of that money has made its way to storm victims.
Here’s how the four largest recipients of aid have used it as of the beginning of this year:
- Texas had drawn down about $18 million out of $5 billion allocated, for administration and planning uses only.
- Florida had drawn down about $1 million out of $616 million, for administration, planning and housing activities.
- Puerto Rico had not drawn down any of the $1.5 billion it has been allocated.
- The U.S. Virgin Islands had not drawn down any of its $243 million.
The problem lies with HUD, the GAO said, citing numerous shortcomings at the agency and its processes that prevent it from acting quickly and competently. GAO recommended that Congress create more rigorous, permanent rules and procedures at HUD to streamline the dispersal of disaster relief funds in the future.