Sept. 19 (UPI) — The Trump administration on Friday said it is awarding $13 billion in funding to Puerto Rico to rebuild infrastructure three years after Hurricane Maria devastated the island territory.
President Donald Trump announced the funding during a press briefing at the White House.
Of the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding, $9.6 billion will go to the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, which took a major hit during the 2017 hurricane. The entire island lost power, some areas for months. Another $2 billion will go toward restoring school buildings and boosting the Department of Education.
Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, 2017, as a Category 4 storm, dumping up to 3 feet of rain in some areas and bringing up to 155 mph winds. The deluge caused dozens of landslides and left about 3,000 people dead.
“We’ve done more for Puerto Rico than anybody,” Trump said during the briefing.
When asked why the administration didn’t grant the funding three years ago, immediately after the natural disaster, Trump said, “because what we’re doing is we’ve been working on it for a long time.”
In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, Trump frequently took aim at local leadership there, blaming the island’s existing poor infrastructure for the damage it took during the storm. He repeatedly traded barbs with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, saying she showed “poor leadership ability” in response to the storm.
Cruz said Trump had a lack of compassion for the people of Puerto Rico.
“This will be a stain on his presidency for as long as he lives,” she said in August 2018. “Because rather than come here to support us, he came here to throw paper towels at us, and we will never forget and we will always remember.”
The White House said that collectively, the U.S. government has obligated about $26 billion to Puerto Rico in response to Hurricane Maria.