House passes $36.5B of aid for Puerto Rico, hurricane-hit states

Pauline Gross
October 13, 2017

"We can not keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been unbelievable (under the most hard circumstances) in P.R. forever!" One-third of the island lacks clean running water and just 8 per cent of its roads are passable, according to government statistics.

Puerto Rico has been reeling since Hurricane Maria struck three weeks ago.

Last week, after visiting the island to view relief efforts, Trump had asked Congress to approve an emergency aid package of US$29 billion for Puerto Rico.

Ch-ch-check out the strongest reactions (below)!

Just 17% of the US territory has power, according to the island's government.

Others, including House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, and Puerto Rican mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, also pleaded with Trump to not abandon the island, home to 3.4 million US citizens. Most people in Puerto Rico do not pay federal income taxes, but they do pay local income taxes, which are often higher than what federal income taxes would be. Electric and all infrastructure was disaster before hurricanes. Forty-five deaths in Puerto Rico have been blamed on Maria, 90 per cent of the island is still without power and the government says it hopes to have electricity restored completely by March. In fact, FEMA has already spent $2 million in Puerto Rico relief this year - connected to Hurricane Irene in 2011. Currently, more than 10,000 active duty military personnel from Puerto Rico serve across the branches of the U.S. Armed Forces (Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration).

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Democrats said Trump's attacks were "shameful", given that the 3 million-plus USA citizens on Puerto Rico are confronting the kind of hardships that would draw howls of outrage if they affected a state.

Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-N.J.), said that those who live on the island "are American citizens and they deserve the federal assistance they need to recover and rebuild".

Puerto Rico lost population and jobs after Congress eliminated special tax breaks in 2006, making it more hard to repay its debts. For now, it ignores huge demands from the powerful Florida and Texas delegations, which together pressed for some $40 billion more.

More than a dozen years after Hurricane Katrina pounded the Gulf Coast, FEMA was slated to dole out almost half a billion dollars in fiscal year 2017 to fund relief efforts, mostly in Louisiana, after the hurricane and subsequent storms Rita and Wilma.

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". Authorities told CNN on Wednesday that the death toll had gone up to 45, but at least some 113 people were still unaccounted for. "It's not easy when you are continue to suffer - see the suffering of the people without food, without water, and actually living in a humanitarian crisis".

Other reports by GizPress

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