- In April, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), which is administering billions of dollars of disaster relief and recovery funds authorized through the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2018, awarded $16 billion for state projects that would help prevent and mitigate damage from future natural disasters, but President Donald Trump's administration still has not instructed states about how to apply for the money, Bloomberg reported.
- The Office of Management and Budget must approve funding rules and publish them in the Federal Register before states can submit their applications. The holdup has prompted George P. Bush, commissioner of the Texas General Land Office, to pen a letter asking OMB Director Mick Mulvaney to wrap up the approval process so that the state, which is in line for $4 billion, can begin “construction of the vital infrastructure projects” that will protect its residents from damage like they sustained during Hurricane Harvey. HUD allocated $8.3 billion, the largest share of the $16 billion, to Puerto Rico.
- Marion McFadden, former deputy assistant secretary for grant programs at HUD, told Bloomberg that this is the longest the federal government has ever taken to process these types of awards. The federal government shutdown, which has entered its third week, is expected to slow the approval process even more.
The bogged-down funding approval process not only puts places like Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico at risk as another hurricane season looms, but forces contractors that would normally perform the work to move on to other projects.
In Texas, mitigation money will be used to buy homes in flood-prone areas, raise other homes above floodplain levels and upgrade utility systems. In Puerto Rico, at least $2 billion will go toward beefing up the island’s electric grid. In an environment of scant labor resources, however, administrative holdups are adding additional time to the schedule for these important storm-damage prevention initiatives.
The Trump administration has also come under fire for allegedly dragging its feet when it comes to disbursement of approved funds for transit projects. Transportation for America tracks Federal Transit Administration grants on its website and claims that the agency is withholding about $1.5 billion of the more than $2.3 billion of project funding federal lawmakers have approved in the past two years. This money is earmarked for projects that have put together local financing as well and vary from streetcar projects to bus rapid transit initiatives. The FTA maintains that projects currently without funding have not met grant requirements.