Menendez Slams Trump Admin after Gov’t Watchdog Finds it Botched Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico

Menendez Slams Trump Admin after Gov’t Watchdog Finds it Botched Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico

IG investigation, prompted by inquiries made by Sen. Menendez and Colleagues, found FEMA ‘wasted personnel resources, time, and taxpayer money’ and prolonged suffering for Hurricane Maria victims in Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) today criticized the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria after it was found that a Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) contractor was wildly incompetent and left storm victims in Puerto Rico unable to rebuild their homes. In an investigation requested by Sens. Menendez and Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)
in December 2017, whose findings were released today, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Inspector General (IG) found that FEMA erred in its decision to award over $30 million in contracts to Bronze Star LLC for temporary roofing materials for the victims of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico that were never delivered. Sens. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined in this request.

“FEMA’s disastrous, botched contract with Bronze Star literally left American citizens in the pouring rain, delaying for a month the relief they needed,” said Sen. Menendez.  “Today, it’s clear that FEMA’s contracting incompetence was systemic and they’ve not improved it even after these miserable failures.  The stories of continued suffering and the Trump Administration’s nickel and diming of the people of Puerto Rico, who have yet to fully rebuild their lives, is disgraceful and un-American.”

“The Trump Administration’s disaster response in Puerto Rico has been a tragic mess, including FEMA’s Hurricane Maria contracting efforts,” Sen. Warren said. “Today we learned that FEMA did not follow federal procurements laws and regulations when it hired Bronze Star – an inexperienced contractor that failed to deliver, wasting money and creating unnecessary suffering in Puerto Rico. The ongoing suffering is heartbreaking and inexcusable – and President Trump needs to answer for his Administration’s failure and indifference.”

The IG investigation findings include: “FEMA did not follow all relevant laws, regulations, and procedures when awarding the two Bronze Star contracts. Specifically, contrary to Federal Acquisition Regulation[s] … FEMA did not determine Bronze Star’s capability or the capability of its supplier to fulfill the terms and conditions of the contracts. FEMA did not request acceptable evidence of a commitment or explicit arrangement from Bronze Star’s supplier or require Bronze Star to ‘affirmatively’ demonstrate its responsibility or that of its proposed supplier.” 

The IG also noted that the issues highlighted in their report “are not unique to the Bronze Star contracts,” adding that the deficiencies in the Bronze Star contracting process “are indicative of systemic problems that FEMA must address to uphold the integrity of its procurement process.” FEMA, however, refused to accept the IG’s recommendations, which remain “open and unresolved.” The IG was “surprised by FEMA’s non-concurrence” with the recommendations. The IG also stated that “FEMA has not improved its contracting processes in the wake of the Bronze Star terminations.”

Read the full IG report here.

The investigation of the Bronze Star contract is just one example of Sen. Menendez’s ongoing efforts to provide oversight of FEMA’s contracting process for the relief and recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria. Since Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Sen. Menendez has championed for the equal treatment of Puerto Ricans in disaster aid and given them a voice in the Senate.

In recent weeks, Sen. Menendez has strongly advocated for increased relief measures for Puerto Rico’s recovery in a new supplemental disaster packageSpeaking from the Senate floor days after Trump complained to Republican senators that Puerto Rico is getting ‘too much hurricane relief funding’, Sen. Menendez called on his colleagues to reject any measure without additional funding for the Island.