In September 2017, Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, making it one of the deadliest natural tragedies in the island's history. Residents of the territory have been trying to pick up their lives ever since. Even though Hurricane Maria occurred over a year ago, Carmen Yulin Cruz's response to Trump about aid proves there's still serious work that needs to be done in Puerto Rico.
On Tuesday, March 26, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz spoke to CNN about reports that President Donald Trump discussed limiting federal funding in Puerto Rico. According to a March 25 report from The Washington Post, Trump reportedly will not approve any money for the U.S. territory aside from food stamps. In an email to Elite Daily on Wednesday, March 27, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said that the administration would not "put taxpayers on the hook" for the island's economic problems. He wrote,
The Trump Administration is committed to the complete recovery of Puerto Rico. The island has received unprecedented support and is on pace to receive tens of billions of dollars from taxpayers. However, the Trump Administration will not put taxpayers on the hook to correct a decades old spending crisis that has left the island with deep-rooted economic problems.
The White House did not immediately respond to additional questions regarding the statement and policy.
Since the 2017 tragedy, Puerto Rican residents are still being impacted by the immense destruction of their island, which killed an estimated nearly 3,000 people and displaced thousands of families after their homes were completely destroyed. Following the storm, many residents did not have electricity for months. On March 26, Cruz discussed how funding helps residents receive food, seeing as there has been a delay in food stamp funding since the natural disaster hit, and accused Trump of "vindictive behavior" towards the island. She said,
The president continues to show his vindictive behavior towards Puerto Rico, and he continues to make the humanitarian crisis worse. What we’re talking about is a gap of $600 million that is needed to feed Puerto Rico, so he wants to huff and puff just like he was King Kong but what he’s doing really is he is ensuring that people don’t have food on the table.
Cruz then addressed Trump directly by asking what it will take for him to take action. "How many deaths of Puerto Ricans will be enough?" Cruz asked. The White House did not immediately respond to request for comment on Cruz's remarks.
Want to see the full statement? Start watching the video at 34:35.
According to Cruz, the Trump administration has made the situation in Puerto Rico "worse," with only 43 percent of the population receiving food assistance out of 1.3 million residents. As a territory of the United States, residents of Puerto Rico are U.S. citizens, but they do not have the right to vote in presidential elections, and are represented in Congress by a non-voting member.
The Trump administration's response to Hurricane Maria was significantly criticized at the time, with many suggesting that the federal government had a slow or inadequate response. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for additional comment on the criticism. Trump has also made some controversial statements concerning relief aid for the U.S. territory. On Oct. 3, 2017, Trump told reporters that responding to Hurricane Maria relief had impacted the U.S. federal budget severely, but his phrasing was what raised questions. "I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you threw our budget a little out of whack. But that’s fine," Trump joked. The White House did not immediately respond to Elite Daily's request for additional comment on the joke.
Despite his attempt at humor, the joke wasn't met with laughs. Later that month, Trump then claimed that his administration's response to Hurricane Maria was a "10 out of 10." However, that doesn't seem to be Puerto Rican officials' opinions. Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló sent a letter to Trump on Sept. 19, 2018, the year anniversary of Hurricane Maria, stating that Puerto Rican residents received "discrimination and unequal treatment" compared to U.S. citizens. At the end of the letter, Rosselló urged Trump to consider granting Puerto Rico statehood in an effort to "realize Puerto Rico's full potential." Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on the letter at the time, but did not hear back.
The second-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria is quickly approaching, and there's still a lot of work that needs to be done. What to know how to help? Here's what to do.