Ricardo Rossello, governor of Puerto Rico, spoke during a televised interview in Bloomberg, New York. The island faces a tough battle to secure federal funding after key former senior officials in the administration of the governor were arrested Wednesday. A corruption scandal in Puerto Rico has sparked new calls by Republican lawmakers to impose stricter restrictions on federal spending on the island, reinforcing the longstanding political conflict in Washington on how to help it recover from the Hurricane in 2017
The new requirements come because the Trump administration is already looking for new ways to curb federal support for Puerto Rico after complaints the President has made to its staff that the island receives too much aid, Syn official who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.
FBI arrests in a corruption scandal in Puerto Rico, provoking appeals for governoral rejection and concern for billions to help the storm]
On Wednesday, two former senior members of the administration of governor Ricardo Rossello were arrested and charged in a federal government fraud scheme through abuse of contracts. Prosecutors said Rosella was not the subject of the investigation. One appeared in court Thursday and reported that he helped prosecutors and the other was not found guilty, according to Puerto Rico El Nueo Diya's largest newspaper.
Some MPs in the Republic responded to arrests on Thursday demanding stricter supervisory measures to ensure that taxpayers are not being abused while Democrats warn that retention of critical funding will only punish innocent victims.
Arrests come at a key moment in the island's relationship with federal lawmakers, as Puerto Rico seeks to secure the release of billions of federal aid from the Trump administration, and urges Congress to approve billions in new funds to prevent drastic cuts in the program. medical insurance Medicaid for hundreds of thousands of people.
Puerto Rico complains about the slow release of federal aid from the island after Hurricane Maria, who has killed thousands of people and has suffered damage between $ 90 and $ 120 billion, according to various estimates.
Congress has approved $ 42 billion to restore the island, but only $ 13 billion of that money has been spent, which encourages Democrats and island officials to demand a quicker release. Russ Wutt, who heads the Office of the White House Office and Budget, spends a considerable amount of time each year in Puerto Rico funding and creates his own team at the CSB to monitor the money, according to a senior government official. Such a team does not exist for American states affected by other storms.
Trump also asks for regular reports of money going to the island, and senior agency staff have received specific requests from Vought and OMB's staff on costs. The president asked White House employees to monitor every dollar that went to Puerto Rico, according to the senior official, and complained about Puerto Rico's federal funding for food vouchers and other items.
José Carrion, a member of the fiscal company, said in an interview before the arrest that the federal government must be strict – that's what Congress confided to the local front.
Republicans in Congress also step up their calls for stricter supervision. At a panel hearing on Thursday, Representative Greg Walden (Ore.), The most senior Republican in the Committee on Energy and Trade, said MEPs would have to add tighter surveillance measures to a package that would provide billions of funds to finance the island. As Puerto Rico is not a state, its Medicaid program is more uncompromising and requires Congress to periodically enter and approve additional costs.
In April, Rosselo asked the House Members for $ 15 billion to cover his Medicaid program for the next few years. its federal funding will begin to dry in September and may affect 1.5 million people in the program.
But among the FBI arrested on Wednesday was Angela Avila-Marrero, who headed the Puerto Rico administration for health insurance, which includes Medicaid's oversight by June. Avila-Marrero is not found guilty according to El Nuevo Diya.
"Given the news from Puerto Rico yesterday, we will also need additional measures for the integrity of the program," Walden said at the hearing. "I look forward to working with the majority to see what measures we can take to prevent such kinds of fraudulent activities that are allegedly happening."
Rep. Gus Billirakis (R-Fla.), A member of the Committee on Energy and Trade, also said on Thursday that lawmakers should add additional funding guarantees, quoting arrests.
The Medicaid package was approved by the House Subcommittee on Thursday, but still faced with a long way to go, especially through the Republican-controlled Senate. Senator John Corn (R-Tex) said that "absolute" should have more rigorous control over federal spending on the island. Senator Marko Rubio (R-Fla.) He said in a statement that he was "very concerned about the arrests while Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) Said Congress should work to ensure that taxpayers' funding is protected .
We sent so much money down and I'm not completely surprised by the "arrests," said Corn. "This is a concern all the time that they are not particularly competent."
But Democratic legislators were cautious about overreaction in the arrests, with the Chairman of the Committee on Energy and Commerce Frank Palone Jr. (DN.J.) saying , that he would agree to some additional supervision measures, but not at the expense of people relying on federal
"There are no indications that Medicaid recipients in Puerto Rico have done something wrong: In fact, if the allegations are correct, the beneficiaries are among the victims, "Palone says.
The Republic of Nydia M. Velazquez (DN.Y.), a frank protector of the island, said that "the health of the people in Puerto Rico must be can not be compromised" because of the arrests. "We will fight like hell" to make sure Republicans do not block funding, she said.
But some have admitted that arrests will make federal funding for the island more difficult. Senator Patrick J. Leigh (D-Vt.), Who is in the Budget Committee and demanded funding from Puerto Rico in disaster relief, said that "of course," the arrests would make it more difficult to provide federal funding for the island.
The situation in Puerto Rico is severe. The island has left about 3.9% of its population in 2018, as the number of people living on the island has fallen by 15% since 2008, according to a Pew Research Center report released Monday.
About 30,000 people in Puerto Rico still live in blue tents created after the hurricane, partly due to delays in building new homes, according to Federico de Jesus, director of consulting firm FDJ Solutions and former deputy director of the governor's office of Puerto Rico in Washington.
De Jesus also said that communities are still struggling with damaged roads and bridges, as well as broken street lamps, while billions in Congress-approved funding by the Ministry of Housing and Urban Development have not been released. He said the island still expects $ 2 billion in funding, which Congress has already approved to rebuild the grid.
"But no one can tell us where this is," said de Jesus.