In a sign of unity among lawmakers in Washington, and despite initial opposition by the Trump administration, the government of Puerto Rico will receive $1.4 billion to help with ongoing rebuilding efforts. The money is part of a disaster aid relief package that was approved overwhelmingly by Congress and will benefit communities across the country recovering from natural disasters.
Puerto Rico is still recovering from Hurricane Maria’s devastation in 2017. Maria, a Category 5 hurricane that struck in September of that year, caused some $100 billion in damages.
Since then, the federal government has been criticized for its slow and insufficient response to the devastation in the commonwealth, a U.S. territory. The government has appropriated some $41 billion in aid to Puerto Rico, of which $11.2 billion has been spent.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said passage of the disaster aid bill would ensure that Puerto Rico “will be treated as fairly as the other disaster-impacted areas.”
He also said that if it weren’t “for the shameful efforts by President Trump to abandon our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, and Senate Republicans’ refusal to stand up to the president and tell him he was wrong, this much-needed disaster relief could have been approved months earlier.”
The total amount approved in the bill is $19.1 billion, which includes funding to assist victims of tornadoes in the south of the country and floods in the Midwest. The $1.4 billion to Puerto Rico includes $600 million in nutrition assistance.