Menéndez y Demócratas del Senado Cuestionan Rol de Nominada al CFPB en Respuesta de la Administración Trump al Huracán María en Puerto Rico

Menéndez y Demócratas del Senado Cuestionan Rol de Nominada al CFPB en Respuesta de la Administración Trump al Huracán María en Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON, D.C. — El Senador Bob Menéndez (D-N.J.), Miembro de Alto Rango del Comité Bancario del Senado, envió una carta a Kathy Kraninger, nominada por el presidente Trump para encabezar el Buró de Protección Financiera del Consumidor. (CFPB, por sus siglas en inglés) y actualmente directora de programas en la Oficina de Administración y Presupuesto (OMB, por sus siglas en inglés) pidiendo un informe completo de su papel en la respuesta de la administración al huracán María en Puerto Rico. En su puesto en la OMB, Kraninger supervisa la implementación de políticas y proporciona orientación de gestión de departamentos y agencias gubernamentales. Después de grandes desastres, la OMB desempeña un papel integral en el análisis de las necesidades y en la formulación de solicitudes de apropiaciones suplementarias ante el Congreso y las políticas relacionadas.

“La respuesta improvisada e incompetente de la Administración Trump a esta tragedia de proporciones históricas, sirvió sólo para exacerbar las insoportables circunstancias que enfrenta el pueblo de Puerto Rico,” escribieron los Senadores. “En lugar de desplegar inmediatamente toda la ayuda para realizar reparaciones permanentes en la isla, la administración presuntamente presionó al gobernador de Puerto Rico, Ricardo Rosselló, para que aceptara una fórmula de financiamiento experimental que haría responsable a Puerto Rico de los excesos en costos de cualquier proyecto”.   

“Usted se ha desempeñado como una alta funcionaria de presupuesto de la Casa Blanca, con supervisión del Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, la Tesorería y el Departamento de Vivienda, y esas tres agencias desarrollaron e implementaron la respuesta de desastre de la Administración en Puerto Rico,” la carta continuó.  “En esa función, es posible que haya participado en la provisión de 'orientación política y administrativa'... y trabajó con esos departamentos para elaborar solicitudes de asignaciones suplementarias para desastres con respecto a la provisión de ayuda a los sobrevivientes del huracán María”.

Finalmente, los Senadores pidieron a Kraninger que les proporcionara de:  “Una descripción completa de cualquier función que pueda haber desempeñado en las solicitudes de asignaciones suplementarias de desastres de la OMB al Congreso, decisiones presupuestarias de políticas, análisis o recomendaciones relacionadas con la respuesta de la Administración Trump al huracán María … [incluyendo] una lista de todas las reuniones a las que asistió relacionadas con estas solicitudes de asignaciones suplementarias ante el Congreso, decisiones presupuestarias o de políticas, análisis o recomendaciones, los temas tratados en estas reuniones y una lista de todas otros asistentes a esas reuniones“.

En la primera apropiación suplementaria de fondos de desastre después del huracán María, la mayoría de la ayuda de Puerto Rico llegó en forma de préstamos con términos sin precedentes que no se aplican a otros estados que enfrentan tragedias similares como Texas o Florida, estableciendo una vez más estándares diferentes para los 3.5 millones de estadounidenses que viven en la isla. Un perdón a los préstamos de Puerto Rico se otorgaría bajo discreción exclusiva de los Secretarios de Hacienda y Seguridad Nacional, quienes ya han indicado que no tienen la intención de permitirlo.

Junto al Senador Menéndez en la carta a la nominada de CFPB, Kathy Kraninger, se encuentran los Senadores Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), and Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.).

El texto completo de la carta se puede encontrar aquí y a continuación.   

               

Kathy Kraninger

Program Associate Director

Office of Management and Budget

725 17th Street NW

Washington, DC 20503

 

Dear Ms. Kraninger:

We write seeking documents and other information about your role in the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.

Since March 2017, you have served as the Program Associate Director for General Government Programs at the Office of Management and Budget (OMB).[1]  In that role, you oversee seven Executive Branch agencies, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the Department of the Treasury (Treasury), and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).[2]  That oversight role involves providing “ongoing policy and management guidance,” “oversee[ing] the implementation of policy options,” and working with agencies through the year as they shift money to implement new legislation or Administration policy.[3]  Additionally, in the aftermath of major disasters, OMB plays an integral role in the analysis of needs, and formulation of disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress and any related policies.

Nearly ten months ago, Hurricanes Irma and Maria slammed into Puerto Rico, leaving behind a devastating trail of destruction.  A recently released study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed our worst fears and laid bare the extraordinary failure of the Administration’s response.  The study found that there were between 793 and 8,498 fatalities from the storm and its immediate aftermath,[4] with 4,645 “excess deaths” being the midpoint of the study’s 95 percent confidence interval.  Mortality data subsequently released by the Puerto Rico government shows an increase of more than 1,400 deaths after Hurricane Maria.[5]  These findings are made only worse by the appalling conditions facing those that survived the storm.  Hurricane Maria caused the largest blackout in American history, and the second largest blackout in the world.[6]  As late as April 12, 2018, nearly 100,000 Puerto Ricans were without power,[7] and today, more than 2,300 Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) customers, including households, multifamily residential properties, and businesses, remain without access to power.[8]  In February 2018, Puerto Rico’s Housing Secretary, Fernando Gil, estimated that 250,000 homes sustained major damage, including 70,000 which were destroyed.[9]  Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans were displaced from their homes and forced to confront the reality of a prolonged period without access to power or clean water.  Many had no choice but to leave behind their homes and communities, and locate shelter elsewhere.  In the first six months after the storm, 135,000 Puerto Ricans left Puerto Rico for the mainland.[10]  Moreover, the storm caused $90 billion in damage, making it the third costliest storm on record in the U.S. since 1900 and the costliest hurricane to strike Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  

The Trump Administration’s botched and incompetent response to this tragedy of historic proportions served only to exacerbate the excruciating circumstances facing the people of Puerto Rico.  Moreover, an examination of the Administration’s response to other recent disasters suggests members of this Administration undertook a deliberate recalibration of disaster relief efforts when faced with Hurricane Maria.  For example, just six days after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston to deliver emergency aid and to save storm victims.[11]  In Puerto Rico on the other hand, it took nearly a month after the storm before the same number of helicopters were available to assist.[12]  Similarly, in the nine days after both Hurricanes Harvey and Maria, the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) provided approval for $141.8 million in individual assistance to survivors of Harvey, but only $6.2 million for survivors of Maria.[13]  In those same critical nine days following the storms, FEMA deployed 30,000 personnel in Houston, but only 10,000 in Puerto Rico.[14]  And while FEMA only needed ten days to approve permanent disaster work in Texas, it took the agency 43 days to do so in Puerto Rico.[15] 

Perhaps most disturbing, the Administration saw in Puerto Rico a political opportunity to exert its ideological will on suffering American citizens.  Instead of immediately deploying aid to make permanent repairs on the island, the Administration reportedly pressured Puerto Governor Ricardo Rosselló to agree to an experimental funding formula that would leave Puerto Rico on the hook for cost overages of any projects.[16]  No such requirement exists for Texas or Florida.  Furthermore, in the first disaster supplemental appropriations bill to pass Congress after Hurricane Maria, the majority of Puerto Rico’s aid came in the form of a loan with unprecedented terms not applicable to Texas or Florida.[17]  While disaster loans are normally forgiven according to a standard formula in the Stafford Act,[18] forgiveness of Puerto Rico’s loan will be provided at the sole discretion of the Secretaries of Treasury and Homeland Security,[19] who have indicated that they do not intend to allow forgiveness.[20]  If that was not bad enough, the Treasury Department unjustifiably withheld delivery of the loan dollars for five months.[21]  The seemingly endless list of inequities in the Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria cannot be explained away by Puerto Rico’s geography, the volume of storms during the 2017 hurricane season, or the island’s leadership and government.  The American public, including the 3.5 million American citizens living in Puerto Rico, deserve to know why this Administration chose a path of deliberate indifference to the plight of Hurricane Maria survivors.

You have served as a top White House budget official with oversight of DHS, Treasury, and HUD, as those three agencies developed and implemented the Administration’s disaster response in Puerto Rico.  In that role, you may have been involved in providing “policy and management guidance” on the Administration’s disaster response in Puerto Rico, and worked with DHS, Treasury, and HUD officials to craft disaster supplemental appropriations requests regarding the provision of relief to Hurricane Maria survivors.

Therefore, we ask that you provide:

(1)        A complete description of any role you may have played in OMB disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress, budgetary or policy decisions, analyses, or recommendations related to the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria.  Please include a list of all meetings you attended (in person or by telephone or other electronic means) related to these disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress, budgetary or policy decisions, analyses, or recommendations, the topics discussed in these meetings, and a list of all other attendees of those meetings.  Such documents should cover, but not be limited to, any meetings, communications, or deliberations related to the following requests and appropriations:

•           October 4, 2017 requested supplemental;[22]

•           Public Law Number 115-72;

•           November 17, 2017 requested supplemental;[23] and

•           Public Law Number 115-123.

(1)        All emails and other documents related to your communications with DHS officials related to the development of disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress and implementation of enacted appropriations.

(2)        All emails and other documents related to your communications with Treasury officials related to the development of disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress and implementation of enacted appropriations.

(3)        All emails and other documents related to your communications with HUD officials related to the development of disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress and implementation of enacted appropriations.

(4)        All emails and other documents related to your communications with Puerto Rico government officials, employees, and consultants, related to the development of disaster supplemental appropriations requests to Congress and implementation of enacted appropriations.

(5)        Any final or draft OMB analyses, recommendations, or budgetary or policy decisions in which you were involved related to the Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, and any emails, or other communications related to these final or draft recommendations, disaster supplemental appropriations requests, or other budgetary or policy decisions.

(6)        All emails or other documents relating to your involvement with the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, including but not limited to: negotiations or discussions with Puerto Rico government officials, employees, and consultants regarding the intent, design, statutory language, and implementation of the community disaster loan in the Public Law Number 115-72; and negotiations or discussions with Puerto Rico government officials, employees, and consultants regarding the procedures related to Section 428 of the Stafford Act.

(7)        All emails or other documents relating to your involvement with the Trump Administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, including but not limited to: negotiations or discussions with other Trump Administration, DHS, Treasury, and HUD officials regarding the intent, design, statutory language, and implementation of the community disaster loan in the Public Law Number 115-72; and negotiations or discussions with other Trump Administration, DHS, Treasury, and HUD officials regarding the procedures related to Section 428 of the Stafford Act.

Please provide all requested materials by July 16, 2018.

Sincerely,