Updated Sep 18, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump admin will grant $11.6 billion to Puerto Rico's recovery, three years after Hurricane Maria

View of boats docked on a beach with a cloudy sky overhead, and palm trees waving in the wind

Tropical Storm Laura passes through Juana Diaz, Puerto Rico on Aug. 22. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

Three years after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, the White House on Friday authorized $11.6 billion in federal aid and FEMA grants to rebuild infrastructure on the island.

Why it matters: Throughout his presidency, Trump has resisted giving Puerto Rico any more federal money for its recovery from Hurricane Maria. The White House touted the grants announced Friday as some of the largest in FEMA's history.

Catch up quick: Most of the funding will go towards the the state-owned Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority (PREPA), which filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and left thousands of customers without power last month in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias, per AP.

  • FEMA is allocating $9.6 billion to help PREPA repair and replace its electric grid and $2 billion to the Puerto Rico Department of Education restore schools, the White House said.
  • Congress approved $50 billion to help the island in the aftermath of Maria, and that federal funding has been extremely slow to reach the island. Around $16 billion has already been dispersed.

The big picture: Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, was the worst natural disaster to hit the island, and resulted in over 3,000 deaths. Puerto Rico saw a series of earthquakes early this year that displaced thousands of people, and has weathered several tropical storms this summer that caused more flooding and damage.

What they're saying: Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) said in a statement the Trump administration had "delayed, dragged its feet and resisted allocating these badly needed funds."

  • “Puerto Rico has been desperate for federal assistance to modernize and upgrade its electrical grid for years, especially since Hurricane Maria inflicted on the Island the longest blackout in modern history," she said.
  • "While I certainly hope to see this money put to good use making Puerto Rico’s electrical system more resilient, these delays are unacceptable, and it is insulting to Puerto Ricans everywhere that the Administration is so blatantly playing politics with this aid.”

Between the lines: At a White House press conference, Trump used the FEMA grant announcement to bash Joe Biden and the Obama administration's aid to the island, offering little evidence for his accusation.

  • Trump claimed that as a senator, Biden "devastated" the island by voting in 1996 to eliminate a tax provision that put an unfair burden on Puerto Rican companies, and that the island's situation "got worse" during the Obama administration, without offering further evidence.
  • Biden's campaign is turning its focus to Puerto Rican constituents this week, Axios' Alexi McCammond reports.

This story has been updated with Trump's remarks from a press conference.

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