In September 2017, Hurricane Maria caused an estimated $100 billion in damages and killed thousands. Three years later, the government wants to help.
“Mr. President, we’re not buying what you’re selling. You are no friend to Puerto Rico,” Congressman Darren Soto (D-Florida) said in response to President Donald Trump’s announcement today that he would release $13 billion in aid to Puerto Rico.
The Trump administration said the money would be used to help the island rebuild its electrical grid and repair schools from the devastation of Hurricane Maria three years earlier amid criticism that the assistance was overdue and being released now only for political purposes. But some are saying the relief is three years too late.
“A genuine question for the Trump administration: where have you been the last three years for Puerto Rico?” Rep. Soto said. “President Trump presided over the deadliest natural disaster in modern American history, with nearly 3,000 Boricua dead. Since then, he has spent all this time blocking over half the $42B Congress allocated for disaster relief, treating Americans in Puerto Rico like second-class citizens, and acting like they should be grateful to get any help at all. Mr. President, we’re sick of the games, sick of the disrespect, and sick of being dragged along while you sit on relief funding owed to the island.”
Trump’s announcement also comes just days after former Vice President Joe Biden and running mate Sen. Kamala Harris released their plan to help rebuild Puerto Rico.
“In the midst of the coronavirus, [Trump] has again failed to provide Puerto Ricans with the support they need,” Biden said in a statement.
Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez, a New York Democrat, said the timing was notable, three years after the storm knocked out the territory’s problem-plagued electrical grid and caused the longest blackout in US history.
“The Trump Administration delayed, dragged its feet and resisted allocating these badly needed funds,” said Velázquez, who was born in Puerto Rico. “Now, forty-six days before the election, the administration has finally seen fit to release these funds.”
Trump, in the past, has opposed providing additional aid to Puerto Rico, arguing it received too much already and expressing concern that the money would be wasted or misspent.
In Sept. 2019, Hurricane Maria struck the island with winds of 155 mph and caused an estimated $100 billion in damages. Hurricane Maria also killed thousands of people though President Trump said that death toll was exaggerated to make him look bad.
The White House said $9.6 billion of the new funding is intended to help the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority repair and replace thousands of miles of transmission and distribution lines, electrical substations, power generation systems, office buildings, and make other grid improvements.
“We need and deserve a reliable partner in the White House, and that’s exactly what we’ll get when we elect Joe Biden in November,” Rep. Soto added. “Biden’s Puerto Rico Plan shows real leadership to bring the Island back to prosperity!”
The Associated Press contributed to this story.