The Biden administration is working on freeing up funding for Puerto Rico intended for recovery efforts from Hurricane Maria, White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden meeting with GOP senators Monday on coronavirus relief Biden invites GOP senators to White House for relief talks Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi detained in early morning raid as military takes over country MORE said Monday.
“The president has made clear … that it is a priority for his administration to release this funding. We are working to do so. So that is in process,” Psaki said at the start of a press briefing.
Congress allocated more than $60 billion in aid for Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane devastated the island, knocking out its power grid and crippling its infrastructure. But only roughly $20 billion has been distributed to the territory thus far.
Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro PierluisiPedro Rafael PierluisiPuerto Rico officials hopeful of progress on statehood State of emergency declared in Puerto Rico after killings targeting women, transgender people Puerto Rico votes in favor of US statehood MORE told The Washington Post last week that he had been in touch with Biden administration officials about releasing the remaining money, which was restricted by the Trump administration amid concerns about corruption on the island.
Democratic lawmakers in Florida and New York also pushed Biden to release the remaining funds to expedite the recovery effort, which has been further complicated by the coronavirus pandemic.
Former President TrumpDonald TrumpBiden reverses Trump last-minute attempt to freeze .4 billion of programs Trump announces new impeachment legal team after reported departures Republicans scramble to unify heading into next election cycle MORE and his administration frequently touted the amount of money allocated to Puerto Rico to assist with natural disaster recovery efforts. But Trump himself regularly antagonized island leaders.
Trump previously questioned the death toll from the hurricane, claiming it was inflated to make him look bad. He repeatedly went after the mayor of San Juan and derided the island as “one of the most corrupt places on Earth.”