Md. Rep. Steny Hoyer in Puerto Rico: ‘Frustrated, angry,’ but not placing blame in aid delay

After two devastating 2017 hurricanes, and recent earthquakes, Democratic House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland is in Puerto Rico, leading a Congressional delegation trying to help citizens recover from the disasters.

At the same time, Hoyer is attempting to garner House support for a package of nearly $5 billion in aid, which the GOP has rejected.

“We come because we are frustrated,” said Hoyer, standing at a news conference with Chairwoman of the House Committee on Small Business Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Chairwoman of the House Oversight Reform Committee Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

“We come because, in many respects, we’re angry that we have taken substantive action that has not been implemented as quickly as should have been done,” said Hoyer, referring to nearly $50 billion appropriated for infrastructure, housing, nutrition, education and transportation, three years after major hurricanes Irma and Maria dealt catastrophic damage to the island.

The Trump administration has said much of the money was squandered by Puerto Rican authorities, accusing them of misusing federal aid.

Puerto Rican leaders have been critical of the federal government’s scrutiny and delay in providing money Congress has set aside. The discovery of a warehouse filled with forgotten supplies meant for Maria survivors added to public outrage last month, with sustained protests in San Juan demanding the resignation of Gov. Wanda Vázquez.

“Whatever the blame, who’s ever at fault, whatever glitches there are that need to be resolved, we want to resolve,” said Hoyer.

“This is not about trying to blame people. It is about making sure that the people of Puerto Rico are put back in a position where they are no longer challenged by being homeless, by having nutrition shortages, or by being unemployed.”

On Monday, Hoyer and the delegation will visit a damaged school and the temporary school where students are being taught, as well as a power plant, and a tour of a shelter where people have lived since the December swarm of quakes.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a reporter at WTOP since 1997. Through the years, Neal has covered many of the crimes and trials that have gripped the region. Neal's been pleased to receive awards over the years for hard news, feature reporting, use of sound and sports.

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