Trump Administration Announces $11.6 Billion Federal Aid to Puerto Rico

September 18, 2020 Updated: September 18, 2020

The Trump administration announced Friday that the federal government will provide an additional $11.6 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will award $9.6 billion to the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority to restore the power grid. Another grant of $2 billion will be given to the Puerto Rico Department of Education to rebuild school buildings and other educational facilities.

Besides the federal grants, there will be an additional $1.4 billion in funding from non-federal sources, making the total amount $13 billion.

It’s unclear where the other $1.4 billion in funding comes from.

The funding has been reviewed and validated by an independent expert review panel and agreed to by both FEMA and Puerto Rico, the White House said.

“Today’s grant announcements represent some of the largest awards in FEMA’s history for any single disaster recovery event and demonstrate in the Federal Government’s continuing commitment to help rebuild the territory and support the citizens of Puerto Rico and their recovery goals,” the White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.

Aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico
Power line poles downed by the passing of Hurricane Maria lie on a street in San Juan, Puerto Rico, on Nov. 7, 2017. (Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Maria slammed into the island in September 2017 with winds of 155 mph, causing an estimated $100 billion in damage and killing nearly 3,000 people, according to the official death toll. Even now, thousands of homes are still damaged.

Power wasn’t restored island-wide until nearly 11 months after the storm. The system still remains vulnerable, with outages affecting tens of thousands of people on a regular basis.

In October, the island’s government announced a 10-year plan to modernize and strengthen the power grid at a projected cost of around $20 billion. Congress has approved about $50 billion to help rebuild the island, home to more than 3 million U.S. citizens.

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and other Democrats showed no enthusiasm for the announcement, instead criticizing the White House for a delayed response.

“The Trump Administration delayed, dragged its feet, and resisted allocating these badly needed funds,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.), who was born in Puerto Rico. “Now, forty-six days before the election, the Administration has finally seen fit to release these funds.”

Puerto Rico is known for being incompetent and wasteful in handling disaster relief.

In September 2018, supplies intended for the victims of Hurricane Maria including food, cots, diapers, baby formula, generators, compact stoves, and emergency radios were found in a warehouse untouched, The Epoch Times reported.

Epoch Times Photo
President Donald Trump shakes hands with service members during a visit to Carolina, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 3, 2017. (Puerto Rico National Guard photo by Sgt. José Ahiram Díaz)

After Hurricane Maria, President Donald Trump said repeatedly that he wanted to help Puerto Rico and granted federal funding to help the island.

However, he emphasized that federal aid should be used exactly the way it is intended, not in other areas.

“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!” he wrote back on Oct. 23, 2018, in a Twitter post.

The Associated Press contributed to the report.

Follow Allen on Twitter: @AllenZM