Things That Matter

House Democrats Are Demanding Answers About Why The Government Is Withholding Aid For Puerto Rico

The recovery process in Puerto Rico post-Hurricane Maria has been exponentially slowed down by a lack of adequate help from the Trump administration. If there was any more proof of that, it came last week as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Department held up $18 billion in aid that was designated for disaster relief in Puerto Rico.

The mandated deadline for those funds came back on Oct. 4 but no money was ever released. Ninety days later, Democratic lawmakers are looking for answers as to why Puerto Rico has been left in the dark here as recovery efforts continue more than two years after Maria hit the island. Even though HUD employees have testified that they know withholding this aid is illegal, they are continuing to withhold it. 

Recovery aid is needed in Puerto Rico now more than ever but as of now, it’s being withheld due to the Trump administration’s fears that it will be put in corrupt hands. 

Back in September, Congress had asked the agency to publish funding notices to 18 disaster-stricken states and territories. Seventeen were published with Puerto Rico being the lone exception. The funding notice was supposed to be $10.2 billion in aid to help build much-needed infrastructure reinforcement in anticipation of future storms.  

“This is not meant to be a suggestion, it’s mandated,” Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. David Price, D-N.C. told NBC News. “It’s time to release this notice and the longer this goes on, the more one has to wonder about the political influences that might be taking place at the top.”

In total, the agency is holding up $18.5 billion, the largest single amount of disaster aid awarded in the agency’s history. The reasoning behind the delay stems from fears that the money could be in corrupt hands, something that the agency’s secretary Ben Carson and President Trump have previously said

 According to NBC News, Price said the “Trump administration is exaggerating the corruption allegations since the Office of Inspector General didn’t find widespread corruption within Puerto Rico’s housing agency, which would be managing the federal housing aid at stake.”

In a statement to Newsweek, an unnamed HUD spokesperson reiterated Carson and Trump’s belief in the withheld funds being misused. The statement also notes that Puerto Rico has only used a fraction of the already allocated funds available to it already.  

“The Administration has taken historic action to help the people of Puerto Rico recover from Hurricane Maria. Given the Puerto Rican government’s history of financial mismanagement, corruption, and other abuses; we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most. This process must be handled in a prudent manner with strong financial controls to mitigate the risk to Federal taxpayers. In addition, it is worth noting that Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million—less than one percent of those funds.”

Now Congress has a problem on its hands that has many Democrats calling for answers about when this disaster aid will be released, if ever.  

One of the members of Congress leading the charge is chairman of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Rep. Joaquín Castro, D-Texas who told reporters last week that “the Trump administration knowingly broke the law by failing to comply with the deadline to issue a federal notice for over $10 billion in aid to Puerto Rico.”

According to John Hudak, a senior fellow of governance studies at the Brookings Institution told NBC News these types of congressional deadlines do at times get missed but there is also a level of transparency from agencies.  

“When these conversations do not happen, it means that something else is going on and it raises concerns that something improper might be happening,” Hudak said. “Instead, they silently missed the deadline.”

Hudak said that there are a few options that Congress can take to make HUD begin dispersing the disaster aid. The first option being halting the funding that the agency uses every day to operate but there is resistance from some Democrats in going that far right now. There is also the possibility that Congress and the Puerto Rican government could take legal action and sue the agency for basically not doing its job. 

Over 850 organizations as of Saturday had joined members of Congress in calling out the agency for not complying with the law. Many of them have stressed the importance of the aid and how critical that it gets released in a timely manner.

There is increased urgency coming from over 850 various organizations that have joined together with members of Congress in denouncing HUD for its actions. At stake is Puerto Rico, which still has ways to go in terms of full recovery from Hurricane Maria.

“It is outrageous that Secretary Carson continues to withhold critical mitigation funding for Puerto Rico approved by Congress nearly two years ago,” said Diane Yentel, president and CEO of National Low Income Housing Coalition, one of the 850 organizations that have denounced HUD. “Secretary Carson’s decision to ignore Congress and refuse to release these funds makes it nearly impossible for Puerto Ricans to prepare for future disasters. Congress must hold him accountable – every day of inaction puts American lives at risk.”

READ: ‘We’re The Ones Making Wigs Modern’: These Female Entrepreneurs Want You To Support Black-Owned Hair Businesses

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

Fierce

Olympian Laurie Hernandez Is Back And Just Gave A Powerful “Hamilton” Inspired Performance

She’s back! After an almost five-year hiatus, Olympic gymnast Laurie Hernandez made her big return to competition at Saturday’s 2021 Winter Cup meet with moves to remember — set to some pretty unforgettable music, too.

The 20-year-old gold and silver medalist hit the mat with a “Hamilton”-inspired floor routine.

Laurie Hernandez just gave a stunning floor routine at the 2021 Winter Cup.

Please welcome Laurie Hernandez back to the floor! After a four-and-a-half-year hiatus, the 20-year-old Olympian showed off her strength, proving, like Lin-Manuel Miranda wrote, she is inimitable and an original.

“My first priority [at Winter Cup] is to go in and hit clean routines and show that I can be consistent,” Hernandez told NBC News. “But my next one is to enjoy myself.” It sure looks like she accomplished her goal, with nonstop energy and a smile on her face throughout her entire choreography.

As “The Room Where It Happens” played in the background, Hernandez flipped and danced her way to a 12.05 score in the event, good for an 11th-place finish in the floor exercise.

And after the USA Gymnastics Winter Cup in Indianapolis wrapped up, the noted theater fan shared her routine on Twitter and asked for feedback from “Hamilton” creator Lin Manuel Miranda and actor Leslie Odom Jr. — who sang “The Room Where It Happens” as Aaron Burr in the original cast.

This weekend’s performance was her first since stealing hearts during the 2016 Rio games.

Hernandez was part of the Team USA “Final Five” squad that won gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics. But following those games she took a step back from competition, later revealing that former coach Maggie Haney was emotionally and verbally abusive toward her. The gymnast dealt with depression and eating disorders as a result.

Hernandez said it wasn’t until years later that she realized her love of the sport could be separated from the trauma she experienced. “I thought I hated gymnastics, and it wasn’t until mid-2018 I realized that it was the people that made the experience bad, not the sport itself,” she explained on Instagram.

Though she already has a gold medal from the team all-around and a silver medal from her 2016 individual performance on the beam, Hernandez is now ramping up for more challenging competitions over the next several months with the hopes of qualifying for the Olympics this summer. But with a crowded field vying against her for just four roster spots, securing a bid to Tokyo will undoubtedly be an uphill battle.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com

Legendary Astrologer Walter Mercado’s Home In Puerto Rico Is For Sale And At A Discount

Entertainment

Legendary Astrologer Walter Mercado’s Home In Puerto Rico Is For Sale And At A Discount

Prediction: You will want to check out Walter Mercado’s house in Puerto Rico, and maybe even buy it up and call it home. And what perfect timing, because the stars have aligned to bring you his Puerto Rico pad at an unbeatable price.

That’s right! Walter Mercado’s home in San Juan is up for sale!

Located in an “exclusive area” of San Juan, according to the property listing, the six-bedroom, five-bathroom estate is on sale for just $395,000.

Since you likely won’t fly to San Juan right now (thanks, COVID), you can check out the flamboyant cape aficionados sweet, two story tropical oasis on Realtor.com.

The listing photos show the home’s vibrant interior, which appears in the documentary, with yellow, red and green walls. The first floor boasts a large living room, kitchen and dining room. Tile-work leads up the stairs to the second level, where there’s yet another living room, dining room and a smaller kitchen — plus two balconies.

Outside, there’s a pool area with a gazebo and a patio, as well as a covered carport for at least four cars.

The home seems to be having trouble finding a buyer.

The estate originally hit the market for $495,000 in September 2020 but with no buyer in the cards, it then had its price slashed to $430,000 in December, according to Realtor.com. It’s now asking just $395,000.

Mercado already sold his Miami property in 2017 to cover financial difficulties.

While in Miami, Mercado maintained an apartment at The Grand in downtown for many years until 2017 when he decamped part time to New York.

Many in his family had hoped to turn his Puerto Rico home into a museum to the late icon, but due to zoning issues the family decided the best step forward was to list the home for sale. Regarding Mercado’s belongings that were contained within the home (so many of which we came to see in the Netflix documentary), one of his nieces told Pledge Times, that though family members have each kept some items, many were given to the Miami History Museum, and some items will go to Mexico. However, his cape with the Puerto Rican flag is being sent to the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Notice any needed corrections? Please email us at corrections@wearemitu.com