FEMA

In addition to everything else Puerto Ricans have had to endure since Hurricane Maria, Trump’s FEMA is now ending all food and water aid.

NPR reported on Monday that by the end of January, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) will no longer be providing meals and potable water to Puerto Ricans, despite almost half a million people on the U.S. territory lacking electricity and approximately 76,000 residents living without access to potable water. An additional 2.3 million Puerto Ricans are living in areas at risk of water contamination, according to The Guardian.

In a January 23 commentary for WBUR, Oxfam President and CEO Abby Maxman described the horrific conditions Puerto Ricans have had to endure for more than four months after Hurricane Maria hit the island:

I’ve traveled all over the world and visited many countries scrambling to cope with disaster. Puerto Rico is very much still in disaster mode. People are hurting, struggling to meet their everyday needs.

In a rural mountain town, I met Jessi, a young mother who had gone three months without power and clean drinking water. Her youngest son, who had undergone two stomach surgeries as a newborn, was especially vulnerable to diseases from unsafe drinking water.

We are a powerful country with a thriving economy and a robust military. But we have decided to leave millions of our citizens in the dark.

This news comes just days after dozens of Puerto Rican families were abruptly told the funds for their temporary housing had been cut off. As BuzzFeed News reported, families displaced by the hurricane that ravaged Puerto Rico had been temporarily placed in various hotels around Connecticut, with FEMA paying for temporary lodging. However, following FEMA telling families they would be sheltered for one more month following the original move-out deadline of January 13 after a request from Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy, FEMA abruptly reversed that decision with no warning, telling hotels the families had to be kicked out by 2 PM last Thursday.

“This about-face is outrageous and unacceptable, and because of your agency’s abysmal management of this situation, 36 families — all of who are American citizens — are now, with no warning, being told by FEMA that they have no place to live,” Gov. Malloy wrote to FEMA Administrator Brock Long. “All things considered, it is hard to come to any conclusion other than that the federal government sees the United States citizens who inhabit Puerto Rico as second class.”

According to FEMA public affairs director William Booher, the sudden change was due to 24 families no longer qualifying for assistance based on new criteria issued by Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló. However, there was no explanation given for why those families’ assistance was initially extended prior to reviewing their qualifications.

While Gov. Malloy’s assessment of how the Trump administration views Puerto Ricans is less than kind, Trump himself may have summed up his administration’s lack of attentiveness to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico in a series of tweets sent in late September. In the tweets attacking San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz, Trump insinuated that Puerto Ricans who had been busy digging their families and homes out of the wreckage left by Hurricane Maria “want everything to be done for them.”

Despite the island estimating that repairing all damages will cost approximately $94 billion, the Trump administration deliberately withheld $4.9 billion in aid that was given to the island as a loan (rather than the grant several hurricane-ravaged states received in a disaster relief bill). National guard troops pulled out of Puerto Rico in mid-November, just two months after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory. To compare, repairing New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina cost roughly $108 billion, and national guard troops remained in the city for 3.5 years.

Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm, and was measured as the strongest storm to hit the island in 85 years.

Michael Boone is a freelance journalist and columnist writing about politics, government, race, and media. He graduated from Texas Southern University’s School of Communication, and lives in Houston’s Third Ward.

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