Federal distribution of food and water to Puerto Rico will end on Wednesday in a move that lawmakers from both sides of the political aisle are criticizing.
NPR reported on Tuesday that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will “officially shut off” aid to the island, giving whatever supplies still remain to the territorial government and not resupplying them when resources run out. The move is especially callous given that one-third of the territory is still without power, and one out of every five citizens don’t have potable running water.
Democrats and Republicans were quick to speak out against the move to end FEMA aid to the island.
“I urge the administration to reverse this disastrous decision immediately and to continue providing the people of Puerto Rico with the help that they need as they are trying to recover from two disastrous hurricanes,” Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat from Florida, said.
He was joined by his Republican colleague, Sen. Marco Rubio, who also represents Florida, who pointed out many in America have misconceptions about Puerto Rico, which may compound the problem.
“There are still a lot of people that wonder why we are giving 'foreign' aid to Puerto Rico,” Rubio said. “You have to remind them, Puerto Rico is a U.S. territory, and its residents are U.S. citizens.”
Indeed, many Americans wouldn’t put up with the slow recovery efforts if this had happened to a mainland state like Florida and Texas, which were also hit by hurricanes over the summer. So why should Washington treat Puerto Rico any differently?
Two hurricanes crashed into the island less than six months ago. Hurricane Irma first hit in early September, knocking out the electrical grid for much of the island. Then came Hurricane Maria, just more than a week after.
President Donald Trump was asked how his administration had handled recovery on the island back in October, a month after the second hurricane had hit.
“I would say it’s a 10,” he bragged at the time.
He continues to act as though he’s a beloved provider of aid, and it seems he believes that he’s acted appropriately when it comes to helping citizens on the island. Although his State of the Union speech was full of lies, his lines on Puerto Rico must seem like a slap in the face to the many citizens still trying to recover from the devastation that hit their island.
“To everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, everywhere, we are with you, we love you, and we always will pull through together, always,” Trump said in his address to the nation on Tuesday night.
That “love” may be felt in states on America’s coastline (although not for everyone), but the island territories are still feeling the cataclysmic effects of two storms that bombarded them without mercy in September. That Puerto Rico must now fend for itself, with many still without water or electricity, is a cruel development, especially since the territory already faced monumental challenges of poverty before the hurricanes hit.
FEMA needs to reverse course, and this administration needs to show more compassion for its citizens. To do any different would be an atrocity.