The Department of Housing and Urban Development will award $28 billion in disaster relief aid on Tuesday, including $18.4 billion for Puerto Rico in the wake of protests over the pace of disaster relief on the hurricane-ravaged island.
The remaining money, a little less than $10 billion, will go to nine states, five city and county governments, and the U.S. Virgin Islands to help repair homes businesses and infrastructure damaged by hurricanes, floods, and wildfires, HUD Secretary Ben Carson said.
It's the largest single grant of disaster relief in HUD history.
"We're rolling out the allocations for the disasters that plagued us last year," Carson said in a telephone interview with USA TODAY. "Congress has authorized the money."
President Trump signed a bill Feb. 9 authorizing $28 billion in block grant funding.
Of that total, some $12 billion is designed to meet "unmet needs" from 2017 disasters, including hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, as well as wildfires and mudslides in California.
Another $16 billion is designed for what HUD calls "mitigation activities" designed for projects to help limit the damage for future disasters; these kinds of projects can range from new types of buildings to zoning changes that can block developments in flood plains.
In both categories, most of the money goes to Puerto Rico.
Congressional lawmakers and local officials criticized the Trump administration for the pace of relief since Hurricane Maria devastated the island in September.
During an appearance last week in Pittsburgh, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said President Trump "has turned his back on the Puerto Rican people" since the hurricane.
"I don't know what's worse: if he doesn't get it, or if he doesn't care," Cruz said. "Fortunately for us, the American people are totally different and have a totally different heart."
At the time and in the months since, Trump and aides said the storm virtually destroyed the power grid in Puerto Rico, and it wasn't in good shaped to begin with.
In the new HUD grants, Carson said $2 billion is going for an upgrade to the power grid system in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
"The electrical grid and the whole power system was just in terrible shape," Carson said. "In order to rebuild, you're going to have to have a pretty good power grid system."
In addition the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, HUD disaster recovery grants will go to nine U.S. states: California, Florida, Georgia, Missouri, Texas, Louisiana, North Carolina, West Virginia, and South Carolina.
Local governments will also receive grants: Columbia, S.C.; Houston, Texas; Lexington County, S.C.; Richland County, S.C., and San Marcos, Texas.
In the wake of last year's disasters, Carson said HUD officials have worked with other federal agencies in response, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
In preparing to distribute the new $28 billion in grant money, Carson said HUD officials have "taken pains" to work with state and local officials.
Asked if politics has interfered in that work, Carson said: "We are getting around it; let's put it that way."