Puerto Rico is set to receive $13 billion in FEMA funds, according to Puerto Rico Governor Wada Vázquez, who tweeted the news early this morning. She’d just talked with FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor, noting that this bundle of funds is the biggest relief package in the emergency agency’s history. Also: Thanks, Trump! (Her words, not ours.)
Vázquez says the funds will go toward “reconstructing our electrical system and education.”
The timing is telling, though: Democrats and many Puerto Ricans say it’s likely President Trump’s need to conquer voters in Florida, where thousands of Puerto Ricans settled post-Maria, that spurred the action.
September 20 marks the third anniversary of Hurricane Maria and the destruction it wrought, including the subsequent man-made crisis resulting from a lack of federal aid and care, coupled with the inefficiency of local authorities to distribute donations and other relief that was available. During that period, at least 3,000 people died, according to a George Washington University study. (The exact number is still unknown.)
Across the island, power outages occur daily, still. Puerto Rico’s education system is additionally strained by COVID-19: With a poverty rate of at least 43% of its population living below the poverty line, virtual learning is a challenge, as not all students have the necessary technology at their disposal. (Some local and federal funding has reportedly been dedicated to resolving this issue, however.)
This specific funding is long overdue, though, implied U.S. House Natural Resources Chairman Raul Grijalva in a statement delivered through the Democrat’s office. “Four years of Trump administration abuse and neglect have caused preventable deaths in Puerto Rico, and today’s announcement will not erase Puerto Rican memories of how the president has treated the island and its people,” Grijalva said.
Congress originally approved $42.5 billion in aid post-Maria, but just $16.7 billion has been spent, Bloomberg reports. Another $25.5 has been “obligated” to the U.S. colony. The total estimated damage was counted at around $90 billion.