President Trump has told Republican leaders in charge of appropriations that he does not want to provide more disaster relief funds to Puerto Rico. He is claiming that the money is being misused and mismanaged, although he has no evidence to back up his claims.
Hurricane Maria was the worst natural disaster ever to hit Puerto Rico, and one of the worst ever to hit the United States. The fact that Trump wants to end federal relief money for the island territory and stop helping its recovery efforts shows that he lacks any human compassion. He is also completely misguided because he reached a decision without obtaining any relevant facts.
Trump also said he would like to take away some of the funding Congress has already appropriated for Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria relief efforts. He is not legally authorized to do this, however.
A new study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government last summer estimated that Hurricane Maria killed 2,975 people on the island. The report also found that the risk of death was 45 percent higher for “populations living in low socioeconomic development municipalities” and men 65 years or older.
After these figures were reported Trump cast doubt on the numbers. He said that the official death toll was nowhere near 3,000, but just a few dozen.
The researchers who compiled the report have stood by their conclusion, however, despite Trump’s denials.
The president’s desire to take away funding apparently came from information contained in a news article last month. He was led to believe that the Puerto Rican government has been using disaster relief money for unauthorized purposes, such as to pay off its debt. This is not actually true, but Trump believes it is (with no evidence) and thus is making moves to cut off disaster relief money that is desperately needed.
Trump first mentioned his frustrations with the relief funds in October when he claimed that “inept politicians” were attempting to use the “ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations.”
“The people of Puerto Rico are wonderful but the inept politicians are trying to use the massive and ridiculously high amounts of hurricane/disaster funding to pay off other obligations. The U.S. will NOT bail out long outstanding & unpaid obligations with hurricane relief money!”
More than $6 billion has been allocated to help Puerto Rico storm recovery, but hundreds of thousands of people are still waiting for help.
Puerto Rico’s government is saying that it still needs billions more to rebuild, and in February said that it would cost at least $17 billion just to fix its antiquated and broken electrical power grid.
When Democrats take control of the House of Representatives they will look into the issue of Hurricane Maria response and relief funding and hopefully come up with a fair and reasonable plan for the devastated island.
I am a lifelong Democrat with a passion for social justice and progressive issues. I have degrees in writing, economics and law from the University of Iowa.
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