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Continued Inaction in Washington Compounds Suffering for People of Puerto Rico

Shortly before sunrise on Thursday, President Trump once again took to Twitter, renewing his attacks on the American citizens of Puerto Rico while threatening to cut off aid to the U.S. territory. Placing the blame for the suffering incurred in the wake of Hurricane Maria entirely on the inhabitants and government of Puerto Rico while touting his administration’s response, Trump tweeted that the United States government, “cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!” 

This thinly veiled threat came on the heels of President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico the week before where he chided Puerto Rico for having, “thrown our budget a little out of whack” with their request for hurricane relief. President Trump’s behavior towards Puerto Rico is indicative of his administration’s lethargic and woefully inadequate recovery efforts on the island—a stark contrast to the relatively prompt and appropriate response of the Administration to hurricane relief in Texas and Florida. The result is a humanitarian crisis affecting 3.4 million American citizens so dire that the anti-poverty group Oxfam, who normally provide disaster relief in developing nations, felt compelled to step in.

More than three weeks have gone by since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, and 83% of the island’s population is still without electricity and more than 1.2 million of the island’s residents have no access to potable water. According to Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, the official death toll from Hurricane Maria currently stands at 45, but the actual death toll is likely considerably higher and will continue growing so long as the island’s public health infrastructure remains damaged.

After three weeks of inaction, the House of Representatives finally passed a $36.5 billion relief package, including funding $18.7 billion for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, of which $4.9 billion is set aside in the form a low interest loan for Puerto Rico & the U.S. Virgin Islands. This stands in contrast to hurricane relief for Texas and Florida, which were provided grant funding that is not required to be paid back. This is especially unfortunate since it adds additional debt to Puerto Rico’s current $74 billion debt.

The Senate is out on recess this week, but will be back in Washington on Monday and should vote on the relief package shortly thereafter. Time is of the essence and every day that Congress’s relief package remains unsigned is another day that the America turns its back on the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

AIDS United urges people to take action to demand Congress do their job and pass legislation to help our 3.7 million fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to recover and rebuild after the trauma they have endured.

Posted By: AIDS United, Policy Department - Friday, October 13, 2017

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