It has been 140 days since Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico. President Donald Trump hasn’t spoken much about the island or the 3.4 million Americans struggling to survive there. He questioned the hurricane’s severity, saying it wasn’t worse than Katrina, and made sure to note how much it cost. He also waged a Twitter war of insults aimed at San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz and threw paper towels at Puerto Rican residents in an attempt to help.
During his State of the Union address, Trump did say, “to everyone still recovering in Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else — we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.” But it wasn’t enough.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) should be on top of providing food, but a recent report detailed in the New York Times noted that when 18.5 million meals were needed, only 50,000 were delivered. Trump claiming Katrina was worse was a smoke and mirrors tactic, but the reality is that this administration faces the same issues. The more than $1 billion dollars from Homeland Security to FEMA appears to be largely mishandled and not as beneficial as it should be. If Mar a Lago had been destroyed, it would not have taken four months to get a handle on how to fix it.
Trump has been busy accusing democrats of treason for not applauding him during his State of the Union address. He also wants a military parade that could cost millions of dollars. All while Puerto Rico is still without power for about 450,000 residents. People are risking their lives to attempt to restore power on their own due to the Whitefish Energy debacle and subsequent fumbles, all while Trump is golfing.
In those days after Maria, FEMA put together $30 million dollars worth of contracts to provide tarps and plastic sheeting for the damaged homes and businesses in an effort to protect what was left. But that all fell through creating a hurtful delay in delivery, and therefore more damage.
Plus, there was much that could have been done in advance of the storm, which was predicted to be catastrophic. Supplies could have be sent to safe places prior, companies could have been considered to assist in aid, but this wasn’t Trump’s priority. It took him 10 days to waive the Jones Act so supplies could be delivered to Puerto Rico quickly and without exorbitant fees.
It is most certainly a complex situation, and one that cannot be fixed in a short time, but Puerto Rico deserves our immediate attention and proper action from the federal government. The repercussions are lasting and are not only having a negative impact the mental, physical, and emotional health of residents, but on industry, small business, and education.
Because of a budget deficit and lack of federal funding, Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rosselló proposed closing 305 out of 1,100 schools. Many schools reopened without electricity in the weeks after Maria, and some still don’t have power. Students are also understandably fleeing the island for a mainland education. Abandoning the island isn’t a solution though, and we most do more to ensure a sustainable future for Puerto Rico.
Ultimately, it is Trump’s job to pull Puerto Rico out of its current crisis. He is the Commander in Chief, and his lack of leadership is appalling. This is Trump’s failure, and no one else’s.