The governor of Puerto Rico on Thursday said that residents of the island “need equal treatment” as those of Texas and Florida when it comes to the federal government’s disaster response.
Speaking to reporters before a meeting with President Donald Trump on Thursday, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló said, “We’re all in this together: U.S. citizens in Texas. U.S. citizens in Florida. U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. We need equal treatment. We need all of the resources so that we can get out of the emergency, and of course, the resources to rebuild stronger than ever.”
Earlier, a reporter asked what grade Rosselló would give the disaster response effort in Puerto Rico, one month after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, leaving devastating infrastructure damage in its wake.
“There has been a lot of work done, and we’ve recognized that,” Rosselló said. “But there’s still a lot of work to go ahead. There are things that we need to surface from the emergency.”
He added: “In these emergencies, things might have the appearance that they are stabilizing at one point, but you always have future problems that can arise such as public health emergencies and otherwise.”
President Donald Trump has been dismissive of the ongoing crisis in Puerto Rico.
Ten days after the hurricane made landfall, he complained that disaster-struck Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them.”
By that point, Trump had already begun obsessively commenting on the island’s debt crisis. And less than two weeks after the storm made landfall, he complained that Puerto Rican truck drivers — many of whom were dealing with their own personal crises, let alone badly damaged roads — weren’t sufficiently helpful in distributing supplies across the island.
“At a local level they have to give us more help,” he said of the devastated islanders.
A week ago, Trump said that the federal government could not stay in Puerto Rico “forever,” drawing yet more outrage for a comment it would be unimaginable to consider him making about Florida, or Texas, or Louisiana, where FEMA stayed for years after Hurricane Katrina made landfall in the state.
Before the governor left to meet Trump, a reporter asked Rosselló about the distribution of relief supplies around Puerto Rico, an effort still hamstrung by a scattered federal response and badly damaged infrastructure.
“Right now it’s working,” he responded. “It’s augmenting significantly. We’re working with the municipalities. I’ve posted the National Guard in Puerto Rico to help with logistics. I sent out auditors from the Treasury Department so that they can actually have accountability over what is going on, and of course there has been some investigations ongoing into the proper management of some of those resources.”
“But our efforts still, at this moment, are life sustainment efforts, hospitals, water, food, medicine distribution and so forth, but also keeping clear that if we don’t also focus on the mid- and long-term we could have a bigger problem down the road,” he concluded.