Public emergency funding ‘passes through a filter of political connections…’
(Claire Russel, Liberty Headlines) Puerto Rico’s officials must answer for their continued fiscal management as the island struggles to fight the coronavirus, said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa.
The last four years has been marked by “possible malfeasance by the [Puerto Rican] government” whenever it is given financial aid, Grassley said in a letter to Puerto Rican Gov. Wanda Vázquez. The coronavirus is just the latest example of this malfeasance.
In his letter, Grassley asked Vázquez to explain what happened to the $40 million worth of contracts the island entered into to buy testing kits for COVID-19.
These contracts were reportedly canceled after the government had put down $20 million, and now it is being reported that the companies the island contracted “have no experience in the medical supply industry,” Grassley said.
The island has also “been plagued by a recent wave of resignations of key health officials,” said Grassley.
Vázquez’s predecessor, former Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, was among the top political officials ensnared by the series of corruption scandals exposed last year, as were authorities from the Federal Emergency Management Agency who were arrested on counts of bribery.
As a result of these continued resignations and the Puerto Rican government’s inability to secure the proper testing kits, the island was woefully unprepared for the coronavirus pandemic—but not for a lack of federal funding.
Indeed, the Trump administration “significantly increased funding for Puerto Rico’s health system” so that the island would be prepared, Grassley said.
Yet there is still a complete lack of “accountability, stability, and contracting processes in Puerto Rico’s government,” he added.
On top of corruption issues, mismanagement of federal emergency funds and supplies has become a pattern with Puerto Rican officials, Grassley pointed out.
After Hurricane Maria, officials were caught hoarding federal supplies and withholding them from citizens in need. And prominent government officials on the island have repeatedly. In response, President Donald Trump has been hesitant to provide Puerto Rico with further assistance.
It is clear, given these recent examples, that the federal aid intended for Puerto Rico’s citizens “passes through a filter of political connections” before these resources actually reach the people of Puerto Rico, Grassley said.