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Trump’s border wall could be built with Puerto Rico reconstruction money

Funds meant for storm-damaged areas across the U.S. could be reallocated for wall construction

A view of the prototype wall samples looking through the U.S.-Mexico border fence on January 7, 2019, towards Tijuana, Mexico.
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As the impasse over President Trump’s request for billions of dollars to fund a border wall extends the current federal government shutdown, administration officials have been looking at alternative sources of funding. They may have found one: reserves set aside for civil works projects, including reconstruction projects for hurricane-damaged portions of Puerto Rico.

According to three officials familiar with the plan who spoke to NBC News, the proposal, introduced by senior defense department officials, would use a national emergency declaration to tap into some of the $13.9 billion set aside for Army Corps of Engineering projects.

This pool of money includes $2.4 billion earmarked for flood protection projects in California, specifically the Yuba River Basin and the Folsom Dam, as well as $2.5 billion set aside for reconstruction in Puerto Rico, which is still recovering from the devastation of 2017’s Hurricane Maria.

Previously, President Trump had requested $5.7 billion from Congress to build 234 miles of border wall. This new plan, according to unnamed federal officials quoted in the article, would enable the Army Corps to build 315 miles of a 30-foot bollard-style border wall in 18 months. The new construction would focus on three areas: the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, San Diego and El Centro in California, and Yuma, Arizona.

On Tuesday, during an Oval Office address that aired on primetime networks, Trump argued there was a “crisis at the border,” leading some experts to speculate he might declare a national emergency to fund the wall.

A Democratic staffer asked about the project said the proposal would likely result in congressional Democrats submitting a proposal to block the money from being reallocated.

The president’s desire for a border wall has resulted in an ongoing government shutdown that has left more than 800,000 federal employees, as well as numerous contractors, without pay, and closed vital government functions, including many national parks.

If the shutdown over the wall funding continues, entitlements and public assistance, including housing rental assistance programs, will run out of funding.