Washington - The House Democratic majority leader, Steny Hoyer (Maryland), arrives today in Puerto Rico as part of a congressional delegation that will meet with Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced and visit the island's southwestern region to see first hand the damage caused by the recent earthquakes.
Puerto Rican Democratic Congresswomen Nydia Velázquez, chairwoman of the House Small Business Committee, and Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, as well as the chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Carol Maloney (NY), are part of the congressional delegation. Resident Commissioner in Washington Jenniffer González is expected to join them.
Today, they will meet with the governor, members of her cabinet, the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience (COR3), and representatives of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). And tomorrow they will visit a school in Guánica, the Costa Sur power plant and a shelter in Guayanilla.
For Ocasio Cortez - a rising liberal star in Congress - these will be her first official public activities on the island as a congresswoman. In Velázquez's case, it is her second visit after the January earthquakes.
"I want to learn about the situation and the needs," Hoyer told El Nuevo Día, as he announced his visit.
In 2017, after the catastrophe caused by Hurricane María, Hoyer visited Puerto Rico with former majority spokesman Republican Kevin McCarthy.
Democrats have pressed the Donald Trump administration to speed up the release of federal funds approved for Puerto Rico following Hurricane María. They have also just passed a House bill allocating $4.89 billion in emergency funds mainly to address the damage caused by the earthquakes and which includes tax subsidies.
Congressional Democrats have spoken up against recent controls and requirements imposed by the federal Housing Department (HUD) on the use of Community Development Block Grant for Disaster Recovery Program (CDBG-DR) funds, which, however, have been accepted by Governor Vázquez Garced.
The governor even fired her former Housing Secretary Fernando Gil Enseñat after he publicly described those requirements as "too many obstacles."
"That's one of the things I want to discuss with her. (Trump) has put Puerto Rico in a very difficult situation... with his hostile feelings... The important thing is to get the money that has been allocated and committed," Hoyer said.
Of the nearly $20.5 billion package in CDBG-DR funds approved for the island -and which are key for reconstruction-, HUD has only made $1.507 billion available to the Puerto Rican government.
For the House´s number-two Democrat, it´s evident that conditions and delays imposed on Puerto Rico were not imposed, for example, in Florida and Texas also affected by devastating hurricanes in 2017.