Nov 27, 2019

The disparity in FEMA's hurricane aid between the Caribbean and mainland

A roof in San Juan, Puerto Rico, still shows damage from Hurricane Maria two years ago. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP/Getty Images

FEMA data and records demonstrate "the degree to which the recovery from Hurricanes Maria and Irma on America’s Caribbean islands has been stalled ... leaving the islands’ critical infrastructure in squalor and limbo," the New York Times reports.

Why it matters: The stalled aid highlights the disconnect between how the federal government can view American citizens in its territories, like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that lack congressional representation and Electoral College votes versus those on the mainland.

By the numbers, via a Times examination of FEMA's records:

  • In the Caribbean, 190 long-term projects in Puerto Rico have received funding out of 9,000 requests — and only 218 projects in the U.S. Virgin Islands received funding despite 1,500 requests.
  • On the mainland, 3,700 permanent work projects were funded in Texas after 2017's Hurricane Harvey. In that same timespan, 3,700 similar projects were funded in Florida.

The big picture: FEMA officials told the Times that the cause of the stalled funding is rooted in how the federal government funds natural disaster relief efforts.

  • Local governments and charities often start repairs and are then reimbursed by FEMA.
  • The slower economies in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands' economies have rendered them entirely dependent on FEMA aid.

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House panel seeks investigation into $400 million border wall contract

Security forces near the US-Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico on Sept. 18, 2019. Photo: Guillermo Arias/AFP via Getty Images

The House Homeland Security Committee requested on Wednesday that the Defense Department inspector general investigate a $400 million contract recently awarded to Fisher Sand and Gravel Co. for constructing a portion of President Trump's border wall.

The big picture: Fisher was not on the Army Corps of Engineers' original list of qualified bidders to build 31 miles of border wall near Yuma, Arizona, per the Washington Post. But Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) cites another report from the Post that alleges Trump has repeatedly urged the Army Corp. to award the contract to Fisher, which is owned by a GOP donor who has made several appearances on Fox News to promote his company.

Go deeperArrowDec 4, 2019

Wireless' next challenge is climate change

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Wireless companies whose networks are threatened by hurricanes, floods, fires and other extreme weather are rebuilding to withstand repeat disasters and factoring climate change into their long-term planning.

The big picture: While partisan disputes deadlock federal action on climate change, companies are preparing for it as a reality that is affecting their future services as well as their bottom lines.

Go deeperArrowNov 25, 2019

Scientists attempt to revive endangered frog in Puerto Rico

American scientists successfully hatched a critically endangered Puerto Rican toad from in vitro fertilization to save it from extinction, AP reports.

Why it matters: This was the first time in vitro was successfully used to save the Puerto Rican crested toad. Olaf, the the first frog to undergo metamorphosis, was one of more than 300 toads born via in vitro. The Puerto Rican crested toad was deemed extinct through the 1960s, and was later rediscovered in the '80s. Efforts to save the species have been made for a few decades. Today's population of Puerto Rican crested toads is estimated between 300 and 3,000.

Go deeper: 3 billion birds have been lost in U.S. and Canada since 1970

Keep ReadingArrowNov 23, 2019