Puerto Rico Hands FEMA Power to Approve Any Use of Hurricane Aid

Downed power lines in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Nov. 7, 2017.

Photographer: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello said the island has agreed to give the Federal Emergency Management Agency unprecedented power to oversee disaster-relief spending, a step that may mollify Congress as the territory seeks billions to recover from Hurricane Maria.

Rossello, who has requested $94 billion in aid from Washington, said at a press conference Monday in San Juan that he agreed to let the agency pre-approve the use of any federal funds. He said that FEMA has never taken that step before.

"We want to embark in the most transparent, effective, and efficient recovery process in the history of our nation," the governor said. "We want to create a certain set of controls that have been unprecedented, robust in nature and that work in collaboration with all of the federal agencies."

Puerto Rico came under fire from some in Congress this year after it was revealed that the island’s electric utility hired a little-known Montana firm for a $300 million contract to repair its grid. The revelation led the island’s federal control board to try to install its own chief to oversee the utility’s reconstruction, though that move was blocked by a federal judge.

Maria caused almost $100 billion in damage when it came ashore in September, causing widespread devastation and complicating Puerto Rico’s record-setting bankruptcy.

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