Things That Matter

Puerto Rico Was Purposefully Denied Disaster Relief They Were Guaranteed By The Federal Government

It’s been more than two years since Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico and the recovery efforts have shown no signs of stopping anytime soon. Those efforts have been exponentially slowed down by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Two officials from the department, HUD head of Community Planning and Development David Woll and Chief Financial Officer Irving Dennis, appeared at a congressional hearing last week saying that they purposely missed a September deadline to release billions of dollars in hurricane recovery funds to the island.

Their reasoning behind the delayed money is simply a lack of trust between them and the U.S. territory’s housing agency to handle the money properly. This new development is a new chapter in the long dispute between the Trump administration and Puerto Rico over federal support following Hurricane Maria. President Trump has called Puerto Rico an “island with deep-rooted economic problems” and similar to what HUD officials voiced, he has stated that he doesn’t trust giving the U.S. territory more funds.  

“We want to have a belt and suspenders plan in place to make sure that, A: we’re protecting taxpayers but, B: more importantly, that the money is going to the people of Puerto Rico and not being wasted or abused,” Woll told lawmakers.

While it’s already been two years since Hurricane Maria hit, Puerto Rico has only received a third of the $43 billion Congress allocated toward hurricane recovery efforts, which includes the construction of rebuilding damaged homes. 

Credit: @nicolemarie_A / Twitter

According to NBC News, HUD officials were supposed to file funding notices to 18 different states that were directly affected by natural disasters back on Sept. 4. The agency did indeed publish the notices expect for Puerto Rico. If the notice was filed, it would have let Puerto Rico start creating the framework for a plan to manage the allocated funds. 

Despite the delay, Woll said at the hearing that the agency was committed to helping Puerto Rico but not without any proper oversight of future funds. 

“All of us at HUD stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Puerto Rico,” Woll said at the hearing. “At HUD we are committed to the recovery of all Americans whose homes and communities were devastated by natural disasters, and we are steadfast in our stewardship of the funding and trust in us by you in your colleagues in Congress.”

During the hearing, Woll and Dennis voiced similar concerns about the lack of oversight when it comes to the financial troubles that have affected Puerto Rico for years. The two also brought up the recent resignation of Ricardo Rosselló as governor and the islands decade long debt issues as reasons why they delayed the funds. 

“When you think of $20 billion going through an entity that has no infrastructure for that, that does not get developed overnight. When you think of the capacity they need, they need people, they need processes and they need technology,” Dennis said at the hearing. “We’re trying to make sure it is that there is good oversight and controls and policies in place.”

The hearing resulted in some members of Congress saying that the delay violated federal law that was set in the appropriations bill that included the funds.

Credit: @repchuygarcia / Twitter

The statements from Woll and Dennis prompted some backlash from lawmakers who weren’t pleased to hear that funds were being withheld due to political reasoning. Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), chair of the Appropriations Committee, called HUD’s planned delay as “perpetual stonewalling.”

“No caveats. No carve-outs. No exemptions,” Lowey said. “It’s not just unacceptable: It is unlawful.”

The action from HUD was also criticized by top Republican on the subcommittee who also voiced their concerns on the delayed funds. 

“Look, I understand that there may be factors outside of our witnesses’ control that led to miss this deadline,” said Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL). “But I’m troubled—I’m always troubled, and I don’t care which administration [does] it—when any administration doesn’t meet requirements set in statute.”

Going forward, Dennis and Woll say that a quicker disbursement of the money will happen once Puerto Rico’s housing department, Departamento de la Vivienda, can ensure the agency that it can handle the large incoming money being allocated to them. There have been concerns that the agency doesn’t have enough staffing and oversight to handle the large influx of money which again raises concerns about the mishandling of funds.

“No one more than Puerto Ricans want oversight, but what we’ve seen so far doesn’t work,” Miguel Soto-Class, founder and president of the Center for a New Economy, a nonpartisan think tank, told NBC News. “We don’t want punishment disguised as oversight.”

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Singer-Songwriter Kany García Speaks Out Against Conversion Therapy in Puerto Rico

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Singer-Songwriter Kany García Speaks Out Against Conversion Therapy in Puerto Rico

As the Puerto Rican government is debating a bill on conversion therapy, Kany García is speaking out against the controversial practice. The Boricua singer-songwriter wrote an open letter to the senators in favor of Senate Bill 184, which would help end conversion therapy on the island.

Kany is one of Puerto Rico’s most-decorated artists.

García is one of the Puerto Rico’s top artists. She’s won six Latin Grammy out of a career 20 nominations. In March, she was also nominated for her third Grammy Award for her latest album Mesa Para Dos.

This year Kany celebrated five years since coming out.

On Valentine’s Day 2016, García revealed that she was in a relationship with her partner, Jocelyn Troche. The couple is still going strong with Troche appearing in last year’s “Lo Que En Ti Veo.” She and García share beautiful moments in the video. At November’s Latin Grammy Awards, there was a big wave of artists in the LGBTQ+ community in the major categories, including García, Ricky Martin, Pablo Alborán, and Jesse y Joy’s Joy Huerta.

She’s telling Puerto Rican senators to pass Senate Bill 184 in her letter.

Since coming out, García has remained at the forefront of queer issues in Puerto Rico. The passage of Senate Bill 184 seeks to prohibit conversion therapy. The controversial practice has long harmed LGBTQ+ communities. It’s thought of as a way to rid them of their queer gender or sexual identities.

“Puerto Rico deserves that every girl and boy, every young woman and young man can be who they want to be and love who they want to love,” García wrote in her letter. “This measure has nothing to do with religion and everything to do with the protection of Puerto Rican children and youth.”

García speaks from her own experience. “I am an example of how to be faithful to who you are. I am a woman who deeply loves her partner and who is loved by her family and by our people. There is nothing to change. There is nothing to repair. There’s nothing to heal. We have to give the same opportunity that I have had, to be who I am, to all our children and youth.”

García further writes that the bill should be passed as-is without any amendments. According to Al Día news, Popular Democratic Party Senators Gretchen Hau, Elizabeth Rosa Velez, and Migdalia Gonzalez have filed several amendments to Senate Bill 184 as of Wednesday. Puerto Rico’s governor Pedro Pierluisi has indicated that he’s ready to override the senators if necessary.

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Rising Star Chesca Talks Career Beginnings, Being a Latina in the Music Industry, Performing at Jimmy Kimmel and More

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Rising Star Chesca Talks Career Beginnings, Being a Latina in the Music Industry, Performing at Jimmy Kimmel and More

Welcome to Spotlight, where we do a deep dive into the careers of artists, producers, songwriters, and more people making an impact in the Latin music industry.

Puerto Rican singer Chesca is the definition of a hustler. She started as the vocalist for her dad’s cover band in Puerto Rico and became her own manager booking shows in places like China and Greece. The world is hers for the taking and she is going for it.

Chesca is ready for global stardom and she’s taking it one step at a time.

During our interview here at Latido Music by mitú, Chesca opened up about how a tragic accident at 11 years old changed her life, how music literally saved her, and the sacrifices she’s had to make to be where she is today.

Watch the full interview below:

Chesca is aware that being a Latina in the music industry isn’t easy but feels compelled to share her story and everything she’s had to do to get here. She would pretend to be her own manager and publicist at the beginning of her career. Chesca would book herself shows around the world where she would get to perform her own original songs. One of her songs actually got picked up by the radio in China, which is a market not many Latin stars even imagine entering, especially not when they’re just starting their careers.

“With everything that I’ve been through, I have a voice, and I have a story to tell that can motivate so many young women, that’s what keeps me going,” Chesca says.

While she had some success performing in English, she felt that she needed to go back to her roots and start doing music in Spanish. The stars aligned, and Chesca was signed by Saban Music Group, and currently has some high-profile collaborations under her belt. She’s behind the viral hit like “Te Quiero Baby (I Love You Baby),” which blew up on TikTok and led her to perform at the Latin Billboards last year with Pitbull.

Chesca most recently performed at the 2021 Latin AMAs red carpet and received a nomination for Best New Latin Artist at the 2021 iHeart Radio Music Awards.

After our conversation with Chesca, it’s clear that she’s making the right moves at the right time to make a name for herself in the industry, and we can’t wait to see what’s next for her career.

READ: Ivy Queen, Goyo, and Chesca to Headline Urban Divas United Concert in April

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