Puerto Rico Finally Gets Disaster Relief Despite Republican Delays

Jun 7, 2019
5:03 PM

Fajardo, Puerto Rico a few days after Hurricane María (Photo by Dennis Rivera Pichardo | Center for Investigative Journalism)

On Thursday morning, President Donald Trump signed into effect the long-awaited disaster relief bill that budgets $19.1 billion to communities affected by natural disasters like hurricanes, flooding, and wildfires.

States like Georgia, North Carolina, Arkansas, Florida, and California are set to receive billions in funding both for reconstruction and preparedness. Puerto Rico is set to receive $1 billion in aid.

The bill, which was passed by the Senate in late May and by the House on Monday, had long been stalled after Republican Congressman Chip Roy blocked it because it did not include funding for the “emergency” at the U.S.-Mexico border. When it did pass on the House, all 58 who opposed were Republican.

Some speculate that Republicans stalled the bill because they didn’t want Puerto Rico to be included in it, and for months, President Trump was very vocal about this, falsely stating that the island had received over $90 billion for Hurricane María relief.

After signing, Trump posted a picture on Twitter holding the signed bill and asking Puerto Rico to love him for including them on the bill.

Both national and local Puerto Rican news focused on Trump’s tweet, publishing headline after headline focused on his remark. CNN even dedicated a segment to analyze and fact-check the tweet.

Soon after Trump signed, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló was quick to announce the distribution of the funds. The bill grants $600 million will go to Puerto Rico’s Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN) and $300 million will go to community block grants.

The Puerto Rican government will also distribute $1 million for each of the 78 municipalities to undertake eligible relief activities of their choice.

“With this money, recovery will be much more effective,” Rosselló said during a press conference.



Rosselló also announced a partnership with an external risk management company IEM, that will help review applications for the grants. Municipalities, government agencies, and non-profit organizations are all eligible to apply for these grants.



For the other states, the bill will grant $2.4 billions for community development block grants (including Puerto Rico), $3 billion for military bases Coast Guard, $3 billion for the Agriculture Department, and an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program, which now runs through September.


Natalia Rodríguez Medina is the 2019 summer correspondent for Latino Rebels. She is a member the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY’s Class of 2019. Natalia tweets from @nataliarodmed