May 8, 2019

Trump visits Florida as Hurricane Michael funding remains stalled

Trump departs the White House for Florida. Photo: Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

President Trump traveled to Florida on Wednesday to host a rally and visit those affected by Hurricane Michael, the Category 5 storm that hit the state in October 2018. But 7 months after the hurricane, disaster-relief funding remains at a standstill.

Catch up quick: Relief funds have stalled as a back-and-forth unfolds between Trump and Congress, as sources familiar with the negotiations say they're stuck on the specific amount of funding for Puerto Rico, Axios' Alayna Treene reports.

Context: Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017 and has struggled to receive adequate federal aid. Past efforts to advance relief funding for Hurricane Michael and other natural disasters have fallen apart over how much money to allocate to Puerto Rico, per NBC News.

  • As Axios' Jonathan Swan reported in November, Trump has privately claimed, without evidence, that the island's government is using federal money to pay off debt.
  • In February, Trump asked advisers to limit funds for Puerto Rico because be believes too much money has already been given to the territory, senior administration officials told the Washington Post.
  • Trump has also falsely claimed that Puerto Rico received $91 billion in relief funding. According to the Washington Post, Puerto Rico has $40.8 billion allocated in funding. The alleged $91 billion was based on an internal Office of Management and Budget estimate for possible liabilities over the next 20 years.

The latest: Sen. David Perdue's (R-Ga.) Trump-approved disaster relief bill failed last month, with Democrats arguing it didn't earmark enough money for Puerto Rico. In an effort to compromise with Democrats, Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) proposed an amendment to add $600 million in nutritional assistance to Puerto Rico, which they claim is not enough. Sources familiar with the talks tell Alayna that senators thought they would return from recess and move closer to a compromise, but haven't made any progress.

What to watch: Expect Trump to face a series of questions on the status of disaster relief funding during his trip to Florida.

Go deeper: Southeast, Midwest and Puerto Rico wait for federal disaster relief

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