Trump warns federal help for Puerto Rico not open-ended

13 October, 2017, 00:54 | Author: Brenda Erickson
  • Puerto Rico's death toll from Hurricane Maria rises to 43, power outages remain

President Donald Trump tweeted that first responders can't stay in Puerto Rico "forever", but if history is any indicator, they can definitely stay there for a long time.

Rather than criticizing Trump directly, Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello insisted on "requesting the support that any of our fellow citizens would receive across our Nation".

The recovery has moved slowly since Maria struck the U.S. territory on September 20, leaving most of the island without basic services such as power and running water, according to residents, relief workers and local elected officials.

Trump's threats to limit the emergency worker footprint in Puerto Rico come as the House is set to vote Thursday on a $36.5 billion disaster aid package that includes provisions to avert a potential cash crisis in Puerto Rico prompted by Hurricane Maria.

Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Maria, about 85 percent of Puerto Rico residents still lack electricity and the government says it hopes to have electricity restored completely by March. Cruz, who has been feuding publicly with Trump, called the president a "Hater in Chief". He also complained that the recovery efforts had "thrown our budget a little out of whack", and noted that the death toll was lower than the "real catastrophe" of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and surrounding areas in 2005.

Maria slammed into Puerto Rico as the island was already struggling with a severe financial crisis, which forced the government to file for bankruptcy in May.

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In remarks at the White House, Trump said he was taking a step toward "saving the American people from the nightmare of Obamacare".

Although Puerto Ricans pay into the U.S. Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security systems, they can not collect the same benefits as citizens in the 50 states, which shifts more of their health care costs onto the territory's government.

Photo Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan of the Army, the commander of Joint Task Force Puerto Rico, and soldiers from the Puerto Rico National Guard unloaded critical supplies in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, on Wednesday. The financial situation is more complicated than Trump's tweets suggest.

House Speaker Paul Ryan says the government needs to ensure that - in his words - "Puerto Rico can begin to stand on its own two feet".

The president's tweets on Thursday seemed to contradict Vice President Pence, who during a visit to the island last week vowed that the administration would be with Puerto Rico "every step of the way".

"It's not easy when you're used to live in an American way of life, and then somebody tell you that you're going to be without power for six or eight months", said Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon, who represents Puerto Rico as a nonvoting member of Congress. We want them to be safe and sound and secure.

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