By: Roberta Rampton
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — President Donald Trump on Thursday agreed to expand the use of disaster aid to rebuild Puerto Rico’s power grid and other infrastructure wrecked by Hurricane Maria, a senior White House official told Reuters.
Under the plan, the federal government will pick up 90 percent of the costs – up from the typical level of 75 percent – and allow for funds to be released in a faster, more flexible way, an approach that recognizes the massive devastation on the island and its dire financial problems, the official said.
The plan, agreed with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, provides for third-party advisers to estimate how much money is required for projects and how it is spent – a provision aimed at protecting taxpayer dollars in what is expected to be a massive, long-term effort to rebuild the island.
"We’re doing it in a way that grants flexibility, but also imposes a mutually agreed upon set of controls," the official said in an interview.
Puerto Rico is in bankruptcy, struggling with $72 billion in debt. Its finances were put under federal control last year.
Six weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, only about 30 percent of Puerto Rico’s power grid has been restored.