Biden promises federal funding for Puerto Rico aid

View of a sailboat dragged to the shore by strong waves in the Bay of Samana, after the passage of Hurricane Fiona, in Samana, Dominican Republic on September 20, 2022.

Erika Santelices | AFP | Getty Images

President Joe Biden announced Thursday that the federal government would cover costs related to Hurricane Fiona relief in Puerto Rico in full for the next month.

“I’ve authorized 100% — 100% federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue, water restoration and shelter and food for the whole month,” Biden said. “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know that we are with you. We’re not going to walk away. I mean it.”

Hurricane Fiona caused catastrophic damage across Puerto Rico, leaving more than 1.4 million people without power in the immediate aftermath. The storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas, cut electricity and access to running water for most of the island.

Biden made the announcement at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 2 headquarters at One World Trade Center in New York City.

The president on Wednesday approved a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico. That followed an emergency declaration he approved Sunday before the hurricane made landfall, and allows FEMA to give direct payments to those affected for temporary housing and home repairs. Under the declaration, FEMA can also offer low-cost loans.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to the island on Tuesday to assess damage. She sat beside Biden at the briefing in New York.

“We’re laser-focused on what’s happened to people in Puerto Rico again. We’re talking almost to the day, at least to the week, five years after Hurricane Maria was devastating [the island],” Biden said. “We’re surging federal resources to Puerto Rico and we’ll do everything, everything we can to reach the urgent needs they have.”

Providing aid to Puerto Rico was one of Biden’s campaign pledges. He had said former President Donald Trump “made things worse” for the island with his response to Hurricane Maria in 2017.

Nearly 3,000 people died on the island as a result of the storm, which left hundreds of thousands without power for months.

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