December 05, 2017

Warren, Colleagues Call for Investigation of Botched FEMA Contracts for Hurricane Recovery Efforts in Puerto Rico

Untested and Unknown Bronze Star LLC Won $30 Million Contract, Then Failed to Deliver Crucial Stopgap Roofing Supplies

Text of the letter available here (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren today led a group of senators in calling for an investigation of the Federal Emergency Management Agency's (FEMA) decision, following the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, to award over $30 million in contracts to Bronze Star LLC for temporary roofing materials in Puerto Rico that were never delivered. 

The hurricane caused billions of dollars in property damage, and left many Puerto Ricans without adequate shelter. As part of recovery efforts, FEMA has been responsible for providing tarps and plastic sheeting to thousands of affected homeowners, including awarding $88 million in federal contracts for the provision of tarps that can be installed by homeowners. In early October, Bronze Star received two contracts from FEMA totaling over $30 million to provide 60,000 rolls of plastic sheeting and 500,000 tarps. But according to recent reports, Bronze Star never delivered.

FEMA ultimately terminated its contract with Bronze Star, a new company with no proven track record in federal procurement, in early November.  But Bronze Star's failures resulted in a month-long delay in the delivery of these crucial supplies to the island, and has left thousands of Puerto Ricans living without roofs.

"More than two months after the hurricane devastated Puerto Rico, rain continues to fall regularly and thousands of people have not been able to return to their roofless homes," wrote the senators. "Faulty contracting procedures have only delayed relief to the people of Puerto Rico, and we find this unacceptable."

Senators Warren and Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), along with Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), wrote to the Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), which oversees FEMA, to request an investigation into how Bronze Star received the contract, as well as what steps the agency has taken since the contract was ended to improve its contracting processes.

In the months since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Senator Warren has:

  • Introduced a comprehensive plan, along with Senator Sanders and colleagues, to address the immediate humanitarian needs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that the islands not only recover, but are able to rebuild in a way that empowers them to thrive.
  • Led five of her Senate colleagues in writing to the Department of Defense to request information on the Department's efforts to provide medical care in the aftermath of Hurricanes Maria, and to request information on the role of the USNS Comfort in the Department's Puerto Rico response efforts.  
  • Joined colleagues in urging Senate appropriators to include in a third disaster supplemental bill additional funding to help schools impacted by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
  • Urged Puerto Rico's Financial Oversight and Management Board to request that the Court overseeing Puerto Rico's debt restructuring completely write off the Island's debt obligations.
  • Led a group of 12 senators asking the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for information about water- and vector-borne diseases in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Written to the Trump Administration outlining what ought to be included in a third disaster supplemental appropriations bill to address the damage caused by hurricanes and wildfires across the country.
  • Joined colleagues in demanding federal agencies expedite power restoration efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Joined in leading a group of 7 senators in pushing the Trump administration to increase efforts on Vieques and Culebra, especially securing the Vieques Superfund site.
  • Urged the Department of Education to use its discretion to help college students and student loan borrowers displaced or otherwise unable to continue their education in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.  
  • Led a group of senators urging DHS to take steps to ensure the accuracy of the official fatality count in Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
  • Called for Puerto Rico's debt relief during a Capitol Hill rally in coordination with the #JustRecovery march.
  • Participated in a FEMA briefing on the status of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Led a coalition of senators in a letter to President Trump, urging him to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra.
  • Held community meetings in Massachusetts to discuss the economic and humanitarian crises on the islands.
  • Pressed President Trump to take eight immediate, specific actions in response to the crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Urged HHS to provide additional resources and better coordinate efforts to combat the growing public health crisis on the ground.
  • Called on the President to use his authority under the Defense Production Act to more swiftly respond to the disaster.
  • Written to Republican leadership requesting that Congress be allowed to promptly take up legislation to provide the necessary aid to the U.S. citizens living on the islands.  
  • Asked President Trump to waive the local cost-sharing requirement for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and for the federal government to fully cover recovery expenses.
  • Joined Senator Markey in calling for a resolution to the Univision-Verizon retransmission dispute, to hasten the restoration of Spanish-language news programming in the wake of the hurricanes.