The Department of Housing & Urban Development, better known as HUD, has been led by Ben Carson for the last two years, but on Monday, the woman who has been regarded as someone who has really run the agency resigned and will transition out of the role in January.
Pam Patenaude, HUD’s deputy secretary since 2017, has been considered a crucial part of both the agency’s operation and to the botched post-Maria recovery in Puerto Rico. She announced her resignation on Twitter on Monday morning.
“This morning I informed Secretary Carson of my decision to leave HUD in the new year,” Patenaude tweeted in a statement. “Serving at HUD as Deputy Secretary has been the highlight of my 35-year career in housing.”
“Thank you to my HUD family and fellow ‘housers’ for helping Americans access decent, safe and affordable housing,” she added. As deputy secretary of HUD, she ran operations at the $50 billion agency.
According to NBC News, some inside the agency said that she and Carson – who had no experience in housing prior to being chosen as secretary – really “ran the agency.”
Carson said in a statement: “On behalf of a grateful agency, and the families and communities we serve, I want to thank her for her tremendous contributions to advancing HUD’s mission. She is a true public servant, and I wish her well as she returns to private life in New Hampshire.”
Diane Yentel, the head of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, called Patenaude’s departure a major loss, while Gustavo Velasquez, who served under former President Obama, felt that Patenaude was one of the few responsible people left in the current administration.
“I find the news disappointing as in fact she was one of the few [political appointees] in the administration with some level of sanity,” Velasquez said.
Patenaude’s exit is also important to Puerto Rico, where she managed the effort to distribute rebuilding funds. HUD plays a major role in distributing post-disaster recovery funds as the commonwealth still recovers from Hurricane Maria.
Patenaude was a key liaison between the agency and Puerto Rico. HUD approved a total of $20 billion in aid to help the commonwealth rebuild its infrastructure after Maria. So far, Puerto Rico has not received any of the already-allocated money.
“The entire nation loses one its finest, most transparent and passionate public servants,” Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said via Twitter. “On behalf of everyone in Puerto Rico, I want to thank you for your friendship, tireless work, commitment and guidance.”
“We will miss having this direct experience and knowledge especially at a time when we badly need to speed up the process to get those funds where and to whom they need to get,” Jenniffer González-Colón, the nonvoting Puerto Rican U.S. House Representative tweeted
According to El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s leading newspaper, “not a single cent has been disbursed.” Puerto Rico’s Housing Dept. confirmed to NBC News that the money had not been received.
Island officials have to submit a series of plans that outline how they plan to use the money and await federal approval. This process has significantly delayed the funds’ disbursement.