The White House has announced on Friday a disaster funding of $13 billion for Puerto Rico to rebuild its energy grid and repair schools, which were destroyed by Hurricane Maria.
Hurricane Maria made landfall into Puerto Rico in September 2017 with winds of 155 mph. An estimated $100 billion in damage occurred including nearly 3,000 fatalities and many homes are still damaged to this day.
The aid package comes three years after the hurricane and just six weeks before the presidential election as Democrats and Republicans battle for Puerto Rican voters in Florida which is a critical state.
“Under the leadership of President Trump, FEMA will award almost $13 billion to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s electrical grid system and spur recovery of the territory’s education system – the largest obligations of funding ever awarded,” the statement from the White House said. The funding includes a federal share of $11.6 billion for the projects.
“Together, these grants exceed the total Public Assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,” the statement said.
A total of $9.6 billion of the financial aid will go to Puerto Rico’s electric power authority so it can repair transmission lines, substations, buildings and make other grid improvements. An additional $2 billion is to restore school buildings and educational facilities.
“With the grant awards announced today, the Federal Government will have obligated approximately $26 billion for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria,” the statement said
This assistance is one of the largest awards in FEMA’s history for any single disaster recovery. Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez thanked President Trump and the government for the aid package. “Working as a team yields results,” she tweeted about the funds.
In a statement on Friday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer stated that the funds were “overdue” and criticized the response by the Trump administration. “Long before the hurricanes, Puerto Rico had a crumbling and dirty energy grid. After the storms utterly destroyed the grid, it created an opportunity to rebuild a cleaner, cheaper and more resilient energy system, but the Trump administration dithered and delayed and refused to deliver timely disaster aid for the people of Puerto Rico,” Schumer said.
“I will work with the Puerto Rican community to see that these long overdue and desperately needed funds are put to use in a wise way building the cleaner and more resilient energy grid the island deserves.”
Polls for the presidential race show a tight race in Florida between President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. This aid package may have some influence among voters in the upcoming presidential election.