The administration of former President Donald Trump obstructed an investigation looking into why officials withheld about $20 billion in hurricane relief for Puerto Rico following the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria in 2017, one of the deadliest U.S. natural disasters in over 100 years, a new report says.
A Department of Housing and Urban Development Office of Inspector General report made public Thursday also found that tensions between the department and the Office of Management and Budget resulted in unprecedented procedural hurdles that produced delays in the disbursement of the congressionally approved funds, NBC News reports.
It all started after 2018 when OMB began requiring HUD to send grant notices for disaster funds through an interagency review process for approval, making it hard for HUD to publish the notices needed to unlock funding in a timely manner. Investigators found that OMB had never before required such a review process for a notice allocating recovery funds.
Former HUD Deputy Secretary Brian Montgomery told investigators about a phone call he had with then-OMB Director Russell Vought in which Montgomery told Vought the actions from his office were equivalent to holding disaster-relief funds “hostage,” according to the report.