Money for Roads, Utilities and Other Basics Is Still Not Getting to the Island
Florida, Georgia, Texas and the U.S. Virgin Islands are getting help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to rebuild their hurricane-damaged roads, bridges, schools, government buildings and other critical infrastructure.
Puerto Rico, which is in effect bankrupt, is getting that type of aid to recover from Hurricane Irma which sideswiped the island, but it is still waiting for full disaster aid for Hurricane Maria almost a month after the hurricane. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is expected to meet with Trump on Thursday.
“Puerto Rico is on the brink of a massive liquidity crisis,” Rosselló wrote Trump. The unofficial death toll in the U.S. colony is now estimated at 450.
The aid Puerto Rico needs is known in bureaucratic terms as C-G public assistance. C is roads and bridges. D is water control facilities. E is public buildings and contents. F is public utilities, and G is parks, recreational and other. Puerto Rico is already getting help with debris removal and emergency measures to protect public health and safety and prevent property damage.
A FEMA spokesman said the request for C-G public assistance is pending.
“There is not a direct correlation between when a request is submitted and when a determination is made,” he said.
Damage estimates for the island are about $95 billion, about 1.5 times Puerto Rico’s gross national product. About 18% of Puerto Rico’s electric utility customers had power from the grid Tuesday, and water and sewer outages are also widespread.
The island’s treasury secretary, Raul Maldonado, said the government can’t get the revenue it needs because of damage to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.
“If we don’t get the help we need, this will be a national disaster,” Maldonado said.
Trump, who could fast-track FEMA’s help for Puerto Rico, has been dismissive of the island’s crisis. Trump said some Puerto Ricans are “ingrates” and that its officials “want everything to be done for them.”
The median household income in Puerto Rico in 2015 was $19,350 or less than half the national average of $53,889. Florida’s median household income was $47,507. Texas was $53,207, and Georgia was $49,620.
After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, FEMA spent $13.4 billion to rebuild parts of Louisiana. Almost $10 billion came from the C-G assistance program.
Seven Democratic senators including Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) asked FEMA administrator Brock Long to authorize full reconstruction aid to Puerto Rico.
“There should be absolutely no ambiguity that the federal government intends to provide this crucial assistance,” the senators wrote.
Local governments typically pay for one-fourth of the work, but the senators are asking that the federal government pay for all the work because of Puerto Rico’s finances.
The House approved a $36.5 billion bill to fund disaster relief last week, and the Senate could vote on the bill this week.