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Opinion: Trump Can and Should Give More Aid to Puerto Rico

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Ray Strawn

Three devastating hurricanes ripped through the United States between August and September. Texas was hit by Hurricane Harvey, Florida by Hurricane Irma, and Puerto Rico by Hurricane Maria. The people in these areas needed help and President Trump was quick to help Texas and was there to help Florida; however, his actions with helping Puerto Rico are questionable. Why is he ignoring Puerto Rico? He clearly can do more and should do more to help.

Hurricane Harvey hit Texas on Aug. 25. According to a report from Business Insider on Sept. 2, 33,000 people were homeless and sought shelter from more than 230 shelters. Hurricane Irma hit Florida on Sept. 10. According to a report from Orlando Weekly on Sept. 18, an estimated 10,000 people were homeless and the Telegraph reported on Sept. 11 that more than three million people did not have power. Hurricane Maria hits Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, and according to a report from the Atlantic on Oct. 4, the storm knocked off power to the entire island of 3.4 million people, which most of the population relies on electricity to access clean water. USA Today reported on Sept. 30 that more than half of the population was still without clean water. Lastly, Newsweek reported on Sept. 26 that 10,000 people were in shelters, and thousands were homeless as well as 70,000 people’s lives were at risk from the condition of the Guajataca Dam. These areas needed help.

CNN reported that FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency already had supplies and personnel before Hurricane Harvey made landfall. Within days, the number of FEMA, federal agencies, and National Guard reached to 31,000. Florida had 40,000 federal personnel, including 2,650 FEMA staff in place by Sept. 14. More than 10,000 federal staff were sent to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. Over 70,000 federal personnel helped in Florida and Texas, compared to the 10,000 federal personnel sent to help in Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands. The discrepancy does not end there.

According to the same CNN report, President Trump visited Texas twice. The first visit was four days after the storm made landfall, and he visited Florida four days after the storm made landfall too. Trump waited two weeks before visiting Puerto Rico. Fox News reported that Trump asked for $7.9 billion in the immediate aftermath of the storm, and planned to ask for as much as $14.5 billion. Trump did sign a bill which included emergency funding for hurricane relief about two weeks after Hurricane Harvey hit that included $22 billion for FEMA’s disaster relief fund, in which $15 billion was new funds. However, it is too early to identify a spending amount to request from Congress for Puerto Rico according to White House press secretary Sarah Sanders. This is more evidence of Trump and the federal government not doing enough for Puerto Rico.

Even the amount of meals and water that FEMA provided had discrepancies. FEMA stated they provided Texas with 5.2 million meals and 4.5 liters of water. CNN reported that FEMA supplied 6.6 million meals and 4.7 liters of water to the Southeast on Sept. 14 after Irma. According to a report on Oct. 2 from FEMA, more than 2 million meals and 2.5 million liters of water have reached Puerto Rico. Texas and the Southeast have each received more than double the meals and close to double the amount of water compared to Puerto Rico. Sadly, some of the supplies sent to Puerto Rico are not reaching the people who badly need them. The New York Times reported that that missing shipment of supplies resulted from lack of communication from the federal government about delivery time. “We’re still looking for it,” Mr. Santiago, a mayor in Puerto Rico said. It appears there is a lack of effort and coordination on the part of the federal government when it comes to aiding Puerto Rico.

The evidence is overwhelming, from the low number of personnel and supplies, to the lack of effort pushing funding, and even the time it took President Trump to visit Puerto Rico. Why would Trump ignore U.S. citizens in a time of need? Trump can make excuses about Puerto Rico being an island, or the destruction making it harder to send aid (or visit), but I argue that if he truly cared, he would find a way to do more. I wonder if Trump has some sort of prejudice against Puerto Rico and that would explain the lack of help Puerto Rico has received so far. Either way, Trump needs to show the same amount of compassion and aid as he did with Texas and Florida and stop ignoring Puerto Rico.

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