Federal members of Congress investigate agricultural allocations
By John McPhaul
Rep. Jorge Alfredo Rivera Segarra, president of the House Committee on Agriculture, endorsed Wednesday the proposal presented the day before by nine U.S. Democratic members of Congress led by Nydia Velázquez, who asked the United States Office of the Inspector General (OIG) to investigate the way in which the past and current government administration distributed more than $15 million in federal funds allocated to fishermen in Puerto Rico. The funds were specifically to mitigate the damage caused by Hurricane Maria and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Our Agriculture Committee has been very active in defending this industry, and as part of the process, we promote responsible oversight. Particularly important have been our investigations into ReGrow funds, as well as the production of fresh coffee and milk. In this particular case of fishermen, the Department of Natural and Environmental Resources (DNER) must provide detailed information on the process for allocating federal funds. On behalf of our Committee, we are available to cooperate in the process,” said the legislator of District 22 of Adjuntas, Lares, Utuado and Jayuya.
As reported yesterday in the press, the congressional group made reference to $11.4 million allocated to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria and another $4 million related to assistance to manage the consequences of the coronavirus.
The members of Congress made the indication by letter to the assistant inspector for Audits and Evaluation of the Office of Management and Budget Frederick Meny. It is also mentioned that it is not clear how the DNER decided the eligibility for the allocation of $11.4 million granted by Congress after Hurricanes Irma and María. Likewise, it must be reported how many Puerto Rican fishermen requested the aid and how many finally received it.
Just last week, Rivera Segarra presided over a public hearing related to the ReGrow Program, which consists of an allocation of $92.5 million in federal funds, destined to help small Puerto Rican farmers whose agribusinesses generate less than $350,000 annually.
“The farmers’ claim is that the heavy and immense bureaucracy has tremendously limited the allocation of funds. In the case of the fishermen, the country must know what happened to those assignments that exceed $15 million,” Rivera Segarra said.