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A man rides his bicycle in Guanica, Puerto Rico on Jan. 15. Photo: Ricardo Arduengo/AFP via Getty Images

The Trump administration reportedly followed through on its plan to limit Puerto Rico's hurricane disaster relief funds on Wednesday, the New York Times reports.

Yes, but: In response to back-to-back earthquakes that began in late December, President Trump upgraded his assessment of the island's situation from an "emergency" to a "major disaster" on Thursday — authorizing FEMA and Homeland Security to provide assistance on the ground.

  • Thursday's approval also specifies that federal funding is available Puerto Ricans affected by earthquakes in Guánica, Guayanilla, Peñuelas, Ponce, Utuado and Yauco.

Driving the news: Two 5.5 and 5.0-magnitude earthquakes shook the island on Thursday, according to the United States Geological Survey, along with a 4.8-magnitude quake and three 4.6 quakes.

  • Thousands of people in Puerto Rico have been displaced by earthquakes that have killed at least one person.
  • The U.S. Army built tent cities last weekend to house those displaced by the quakes, NPR reports, after a 5.9-magnitude temblor caused landslides along the southern coast.

Details: The administration's efforts to restrict aid to the island — initially approved in the wake of 2017's Hurricane Maria — involve blocking money for its electrical grid and cutting a $15-an-hour minimum wage to workers on federally funded projects, per the Times.

  • Puerto Rico will have to "submit budget plans to its federally mandated fiscal control board" and "bolster its property registration database" to access the $8.3 billion in disaster prevention funds and $8.2 billion in recovery funds, the Times reports.
  • "Puerto Rico’s government was already straining to spend federal money under earlier restrictions. The new conditions will make it much harder," the Times writes.

Background: The effects of Hurricane Maria, which killed at least 2,975 people, have not been forgotten on the island. The recent string of earthquakes is "only amplifying fears that structures have been further weakened," per NPR.

  • The Housing and Urban Development Department has released only $1.5 billion in congressional relief to Puerto Rico, while citing concerns about the island's political corruption, per the Times.
  • Just $5 million of those allocated funds have been spent.

Go deeper: More earthquakes hit Puerto Rico, as island remains in fear

Go deeper

Dave Lawler, author of World
14 mins ago - World

China's Xi Jinping congratulates Biden on election win

Photo: Paul J. Richards/AFP via Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping sent a message to President-elect Biden on Wednesday to congratulate him on his election victory, according to the Xinhua state news agency.

Why it matters: China's foreign ministry offered Biden a belated, and tentative, congratulations on Nov. 13, but Xi had not personally acknowledged Biden's win. The leaders of Brazil, Mexico and Russia are among the very few leaders still declining to congratulate Biden.

This story is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
1 hour ago - Sports

College basketball is back

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

A new season of college basketball begins Wednesday, and the goal is clear: March Madness must be played.

Why it matters: On March 12, 2020, the lights went out on college basketball, depriving teams like Baylor (who won our tournament simulation), Dayton, San Diego State and Florida State of perhaps their best chance to win a national championship.

1 hour ago - World

Scoop: Israeli military prepares for possibility Trump will strike Iran

Defense Minister Benny Gantz attends a cabinet meeting. Photo: Abir Sultan/POOL/AFP via Getty

The Israel Defense Forces have in recent weeks been instructed to prepare for the possibility that the U.S. will conduct a military strike against Iran before President Trump leaves office, senior Israeli officials tell me.

Why it matters: The Israeli government instructed the IDF to undertake the preparations not because of any intelligence or assessment that Trump will order such a strike, but because senior Israeli officials anticipate “a very sensitive period” ahead of Biden's inauguration on Jan. 20.