Puerto Rico’s disaster agency head was fired Saturday after aid supplies designated for survivors of Hurricane Maria were found unused in a warehouse.
In a statement, Gov. Wanda Vazquez confirmed the supplies had been sitting idle since the 2017 hurricane and announced an investigation into Carlos Acevedo, the director of the office of emergency management.
“There are thousands of people who have made sacrifices to help those in the south, and it is unforgivable that resources were kept in the warehouse,” said Vazquez.
Jose Reyes, who serves as chief of the island’s National Guard, will replace Acevedo, said the governor.
Earlier Saturday, Acevedo denied that the aid supplies had gone to waste when a video went viral of water bottles sitting unused.
“The citizen who entered today to share the images on social networks, violated the security perimeter, which represented a risk for him,” Acevedo claimed, criticizing the individual who entered the property to film the bottles. “For this reason, our colleagues instructed him to leave the area.”
The development comes after the Department of Housing and Urban Development formally agreed to release an additional $8.2 billion in aid to Puerto Rico. A hold was placed on the money over concerns of mismanagement by island officials. Such worries prompted the Trump administration to give $1.5 billion out of roughly $20 billion appropriated by Congress.
“Now that proper financial controls are in place, implementing the second phase of Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery program can move forward with an extension to its line of credit,” Carson said in a statement.
President Trump has repeatedly criticized Puerto Rico’s recovery efforts and raised concerns about the misuse of aid.
The president said in March 2018:
Puerto Rico has been taken care of better by Donald Trump than by any living human being and I think the people of Puerto Rico understand it. You have the mayor of San Juan that, frankly, doesn’t know what she’s doing and the governor, they have to spend the money wisely. They don’t know how to spend the money and they’re not spending it wisely.
After the disaster, President Trump made extending funds to Puerto Rico a priority, urging Congress to include access to financing from the Treasury Department.
“We need to treat Puerto Rico equally to Texas or Florida or any other state,” he said at the time.
Then-Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló praised President Trump for his response to the disaster, saying “the president and the administration, every time we’ve asked them to execute, they’ve executed quickly.”