WASHINGTON — The Trump administration will place new restrictions on billions of dollars in federal disaster aid for Puerto Rico, according to two senior government officials briefed on the plan, as the island struggles to recover from a weekslong political crisis that has forced the governor to announce his resignation.
The decision will impose new safeguards on about $8.3 billion in Housing and Urban Development disaster mitigation funding to Puerto Rico, as well as about $770 million in similar funding for the U.S. Virgin Islands, according to the senior officials, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter.
Trump repeatedly asks his aides about Puerto Rico, officials said, creating pressure for the administration to take action. It was not immediately clear to what extent the new guidelines will delay or materially affect the disbursement of aid to Puerto Rico. The parameters of those new restrictions are also not clear.
The administration will also move forward with plans to allow U.S. states such as Florida, Texas, and California to apply for the disaster mitigation funding approved by Congress, while adding new restrictions for Puerto Rico's funding. The administration's new plan was spurred directly by requests from the president to add additional safeguards on federal aid to Puerto Rico, aides said.
The mitigation funds pay for projects on housing and other infrastructure to prepare them for future natural disasters.
The move comes as Puerto Rico is grappling with one of its most severe political crises in memory, which started last month when two former officials in Gov. Ricardo Rosselló's administration were arrested by the FBI on corruption charges over the misuse of federal contracts.
Tens of thousands of protesters marched in Puerto Rico's streets demanding the resignation of Rosselló, who has also been battered by the public disclosure of hundreds of private messages he sent to close associates. Rosselló has said he would step down on Friday.
The scandal has prompted calls from congressional lawmakers for stricter oversight for funding approved for Puerto Rico.
But the administration's decision is also expected to renew accusations from congressional Democrats and island residents that Trump has withheld critical aid from Puerto Rico since it was struck by Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
Trump has repeatedly sought to limit the amount of aid going to Puerto Rico, while publicly arguing "nobody could have done" what he did for the island.
Congress has approved $42 billion for the island's recovery, but only about $14 billion of that money has been turned over to be spent as of May, according to federal data.
Puerto Rico has for months complained about the slow release of federal aid from the island after Hurricane Maria, which killed thousands of people and caused between $90 billion and $120 billion in damage, according to varying estimates.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Housing and Urban Development declined to comment.