President Donald Trump remains pleased with the federal response to Puerto Rico: After he met with the island’s governor on Thursday, he told reporters that he rated the federal response to the island’s hurricane disaster a “10,” according to Hunter Walker of Yahoo News.
The reports on the ground say otherwise. While federal workers are undoubtedly working hard to help Puerto Rico, the federal government is hardly doing everything possible to rebuild the shattered island, which is home to 3.4 million US citizens.
It’s been one month since Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, and a large swath of the US territory remains without power, running water, and cell phone service. The Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to authorize full reconstruction aid for Puerto Rico to repair its power grid and other infrastructure — assistance given to the US Virgin Islands two weeks after Maria and to Texas 10 days after Hurricane Harvey.
A week ago, there were still towns in the interior of the island that hadn’t received food and water supplies from the federal government. Army Lt. Gen. Jeffrey Buchanan said in an interview last week that military helicopters couldn’t find a place to land to deliver supplies in some areas.
“We still haven’t identified everyone that needs help,” he said.
The president has also refused to extend his waiver of the Jones Act, a law that makes it expensive to ship supplies and fuel to Puerto Rico from the US, beyond the initial 10 days.
The conditions are so still so bad in Puerto Rico that people are drinking dirty water from polluted rivers and streams, as my colleague Julia Belluz reports:
The contaminated water has been linked to at least two deaths from leptospirosis.
Then there is the issue with the USNS Comfort, a military medical ship that the president sent to the island after intense public pressure. As of Tuesday, the ship was still mostly empty, with only 33 of the 250 beds on the ship filled, CNN reports. Doctors at hospitals across the island said they had no idea how to get patients there.
It’s not even clear how many people have died because of the storm, as the government’s official death count of 48 is at odds with reports from the ground.
Trump did eventually ask Congress to replenish the FEMA disaster relief fund with $13 billion. But it’s far from the estimated $95 billion that Puerto Rico will need to return to normal.
Asked for his evaluation of the federal response, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló wasn’t as generous. He declined to give a rating and said that the White House has answered “all of our petitions.”