President Donald Trump says his administration’s response to the barrage of hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico last year earned him a 10 out of 10 score. Yet months after he made that statement, it’s clear the response has actually been far from perfect.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) estimated that 30 million meals would need to be delivered to citizens on the island. Yet only 50,000 meals, less than two-tenths of one percent of the agency’s original goal, made it to struggling Puerto Ricans, according to reporting from The New York Times.
Why has there been such slow response? FEMA tasked an organization called Tribute Contracting LLC, led by Tiffany Brown, an entrepreneur from Atlanta, Georgia, who has had five canceled government contracts in the past. The agency gave Brown $156 million to help package meals for Puerto Rico.
Besides being slow to get supplies ready for delivery, Brown and her company packaged meals that required a separate way to heat them. FEMA had wanted meals that would be “self-heating” — in other words, where the supplies to heat the meals would be included.
This is just one example of a myriad of issues that members of Congress are discovering regarding the inadequate response to the disaster on the island territory. Many lawmakers are comparing the lackluster response to others in the past where a presidential administration has dropped the ball in helping Americans.
“It appears that the Trump administration’s response to the hurricanes in Puerto Rico in 2017 suffered from the same flaws as the Bush administration’s response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005,” Democrats on the House Oversight Committee wrote to Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), who chairs the congressional committee tasked with overseeing FEMA’s response.
If that’s the case, then Trump’s 10 out of 10 performance rating was a lie. Indeed, in the same week that FEMA left Puerto Rico to fend for itself (while significant numbers are still without power or water), we’re now learning that many of the government contracts that were initially granted by this administration were given to groups who were unqualified to carry out such a task (or, in some cases, “qualified” simply due to their connection to Trump administration officials).
Trump was wrong to state his administration was successfully handling the disaster in Puerto Rico adequately. If anything, the opposite holds true: his administration’s management of resources, including its awarding questionable contracts to dubious organizations, warrants a rating much, much lower.