News & Politics

The Shocking Numbers Behind the Trump Administration's Neglect of Puerto Rico

The response to Hurricane Maria was criminal, and the evidence is overwhelming.

Photo Credit: The National Guard / Flickr Creative Commons

All you had to do to understand the Trump administration’s different responses to Hurricane Harvey, which hit Houston, Texas, late last summer and Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico, was read Donald Trump’s Twitter feed. Or listen to him talking. Or time how long it took him to visit the disaster-struck areas. But if Trump’s personal response doesn’t tell enough of the tale for you, Politico has assembled hard data on the government response that shows just how much the Trump administration favored Houston over Puerto Rico:

Within six days of Hurricane Harvey, U.S. Northern Command had deployed 73 helicopters over Houston, which are critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies. It took at least three weeks after Maria before it had more than 70 helicopters flying above Puerto Rico.

Nine days after the respective hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.

During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston; but in the same period, it delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.

Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria.

It took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.

FEMA claims that it did everything it could for Puerto Rico and that the circumstances were just different and there wasn’t favoritism. Yeah, right. The circumstances were that Puerto Rico’s needs were greater and its resources were less but its political clout—especially with a Republican administration and especially with a president who’s made Latino-bashing his stock in trade and may or may not realize that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens—was also less.

It was criminal neglect and the evidence is everywhere.


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Laura Clawson is the Labor editor at Daily Kos Labor, and a contributing editor at Daily Kos.