Trump, Congress Put Puerto Rico on Hold
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Trump, Congress Put Puerto Rico on Hold

No Rush in Washington to Avert Crisis; Federal Disaster-Aid Funds May Not Start Flowing for Weeks

Virgin Islands National Guardsmen and members of the local fire department distribute food and water to residents at a distribution point in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands (National Guard photo).

Trump signed a bill providing $15 billion in disaster relief even before Hurricane Irma slammed into Florida where he owns Mar-a-Lago and a couple golf courses, but it looks like the 3.4 million Americans in Puerto Rico will have to wait at least until the middle of next month for more federal dollars.

Trump hasn’t found the time to visit Puerto Rico, where the lights are out across the island and hospital generators have failed, or even tweet about it until Monday night.

“We need something tangible, a bill that actually answers to our need right now,” Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said. “Otherwise, there will be … a massive exodus to the (mainland) United States.”

Congressional staffers told BuzzFeed News that they don’t expect a new funding request from the Trump administration until mid-October. For now, Puerto Rico will have to share the money already allocated to help people harmed by hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

Action Box/What You Can Do About It

Contact the White House at 202-456-1111.

Call House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) at 202-225-3031.

Call Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) at 202-224-2541.


Hundreds of Puerto Ricans and stranded tourists are at the unairconditioned airport in San Juan, crippled by the hurricane, trying to get on one of about a dozen daily commercial flights to the mainland United States, down from 176 daily flights normally. Standby lists are in the tens of thousands.

FEMA administrator Brock Long and homeland security adviser Tom Bossert visited Puerto Rico. The USS Kearsarge has helped with medical evacuations and delivered supplies. More than 10,000 federal workers are in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

FEMA said it had provided more than 1.5 million meals, 1.1 million liters of water and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) called Trump’s response a disgrace.

“At a minimum, President Trump needs to assemble a coordinated military effort headed by a three-star general officer, as President Bush did after Katrina,” Smith said.

The Republican Congress spent much of Monday talking about the latest plan to strip health care coverage from low- and moderate-income people in our country.

House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) did give lip service Monday in a statement to the crisis Puerto Ricans are facing but not much else.

“Our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico remain in our prayers as we make sure they have what they need,” Ryan said.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) didn’t even bother to put out a statement Monday about Puerto Rico.

John Mutter, a Columbia University professor, has studied the death toll from Hurricane Katrina. He expects the deaths in Puerto Rico, 16 reported so far, to be in the hundreds.

Puerto Ricans could be at risk for cholera and other water-borne diseases because sewage treatment plants aren’t working.

“Being without power is huge,” says Mutter. “Just how quickly they can get it back is still an unknown thing. But it’s extremely important they get it going to suppress the chances of illness following the storm.”


September 26, 2017