In October, the president inaccurately tweeted that the Puerto Rican government was planning on using the disaster relief money for Hurricane Maria to pay off old debts.
Although untrue, Mr Trump then reportedly attempted to prevent disaster-relief money from going to Puerto Rico, and instead requested the funds be directed to Texas and Florida, according to a Washington Post article detailing Ms Patenaude’s exit from the White House.
“Trump told then-White House Chief of Staff John F Kelly and then-Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney that he did not want a single dollar going to Puerto Rico, because he thought the island was misusing the money and taking advantage of the government, according to a person with direct knowledge of the discussions who spoke on anonymity to describe sensitive internal deliberations,” the article states.
At the time, Ms Patenaude, who was in charge of handling the distribution of post-disaster funds under HUD-leader Ben Carson, told budget officials that the money “had been appropriated by Congress and must be sent” and “assured them that HUD had proper oversight of the funds.”
Ms Patenaude's departure came after she reportedly disagreed with the administration's handling of the disaster and other decisions, despite citing personal reasons for her December 17 resignation and telling The Post she was not “mad at the administration.”
“I didn’t push back,” she told the newspaper. “I advocated for Puerto Rico and assured the White House that Puerto Rico had sufficient financial controls in place and had put together a thoughtful housing and economic development recovery plan.”
Nearly 3,000 people were killed after Hurricane Maria struck the island in September 2017 and left the island’s infrastructure severely damaged.
Despite his desire to reallocate funds away from the island, President Trump called his administration’s response to the hurricane “an incredible, unsung success.”
Following Ms Patenaude’s resignation, NBC reports there was concern from advocates and Puerto Ricans, as the HUD secretary had been essential to the disaster recovery effort and had visited the island numerous times during her role.