I hope you’re sitting down for this. Donald Trump lied about something. Repeatedly. I know that seems terribly shocking, but follow me on this. He’s been claiming that gave $91 billion in aid to Puerto Rick after Hurricane Maria, more than twice what we gave Texas and Florida after hurricanes around the same time frame (subtext: Why are we giving money to them dirty Mexicans rather than our own red-blooded Americans?). Fact Check sets the record straight.
President Donald Trump claims that “Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane” and that it received “more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before.” Neither of those statements is true.
According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, as of the end of last year, Puerto Rico had actually received about $11.2 billion in disaster relief payments since 2017.
In all, the federal government has allocated nearly $41 billion, and has obligated about half of it via binding agreements, but as we said, so far just a portion of that — $11.2 billion — has been distributed in Puerto Rico.
To get to the $91 billion figure, a senior administration official told us Trump is including the total allocation for Puerto Rico — $41 billion — plus an estimated $50 billion in future FEMA costs “over the life of the disaster,” which can stretch decades…But to get to $91 billion, the senior administration official told us, the president is also adding $50 billion, the “estimated future FEMA costs over the life of the disaster.” The official referred us to a report from the Washington Post Fact Checker that said the $50 billion was “an internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988,” which governs federal disaster response in the U.S. The Post added that the estimate “was described as a high-end estimate subject to change year by year.”
But even if his inflated figures were correct, it still wouldn’t be the biggest aid package after a hurricane. It wouldn’t come close to aid for Hurricane Katrina, for instance, which topped $120 billion. Hey Donald, why do you suppose aid packages after hurricanes vary from one another Maybe because they have vastly different levels of damage that they inflict. A hurricane that hits Houston or Florida, while always tragic, simply is not going to cause the kind of damage as one hitting Puerto Rico, with its old, rickety power grid and little money to improve its protections against such storms. The strengths of each storm is different than the other as well. There’s a big difference in damage done by a Cat 1 and a Cat 4 hurricane.
Trump is still treating Puerto Rico a land full of Mexicans rather than American citizens which is what they are. But they need full representation in Congress, not merely a single observer/delegate with no power or influence.