On Monday, April 15, Paris residents watched as the historic Notre Dame Cathedral erupted in flames, leading to the building's iconic spire to collapse. Since the tragedy, people from all over the world have come together and pledged that they will help rebuild the Notre Dame in any way they can. However, the White House response to the Notre Dame fire is leading people to compare this tragedy to other, ongoing disasters, and questions about who gets help in a time of need.
Following the Notre Dame fire, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement on Tuesday, April 16 that the White House would assist in Notre Dame's rehabilitation. It's still unknown how much aid the Trump administration will send to Paris, but science journalist Erin Biba pointed out through a tweet that Notre Dame has already received an estimated $675 million in donations since April 15. A part of Sanders' statement read,
France is the oldest ally of the United States, and we remember with grateful hearts the tolling of Notre Dame’s bells on September 12, 2001, in solemn recognition of the tragic September 11th attacks on American soil. Those bells will sound again. We stand with France today and offer our assistance in the rehabilitation of this irreplaceable symbol of Western civilization.
Elite Daily reached out to the White House for any details regarding the aid given to repair Notre Dame, but did not immediately hear back.
Following Sanders' statement, Twitter started comparing the White House's response to the Notre Dame fire to ongoing tragedies which resulted in illness or even death to Americans, such as the Flint water crisis and the aftereffects of Puerto Rico's Hurricane Maria. In a number of tweets, people pointed out the lack of assistance that was sent to Flint, Michigan, which has been struggling with lead-contaminated water for years. M Live reported on April 16 that the town had only just received the last $77.7 million in federal funding to improve their water infrastructure as a part of a $120 million grant from March 2017. In addition, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz stated on March 26 that Puerto Rico still needs $600 million to feed island residents following the 2017 hurricane which devastated the island. Elite Daily reached out to the White House for comment on criticisms that aid could be used elsewhere, but did not immediately hear back.
In December 2015, Flint, Michigan declared a state of emergency over the high traces of lead and other toxins in their water supply due to a new pipeline being installed between Lake Huron to Flint. A research team from Hurley Medical Center found that following the switch, the number of children with lead poisoning doubled. On Jan. 16, 2016 the Obama administration authorized $5 million in aid be sent to the city, however, in April 2018, former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder ended a program that provided free water bottles to Flint residents. In March 2017, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave Flint a $100 million grant Michigan Department of Environmental Quality to fund an upgrade to their drinking water supply. According to a Jan. 16 report from M Live, testing showed that lead levels in Flint's water supply is the lowest it's been in years, but there's still work that needs to be done.
That's not the only crisis Americans are still dealing with. In September 2017, U.S. territory Puerto Rico was hit with Category 4 storm Hurricane Maria, which displaced thousands of residents and left many without access to food, water, and electricity. Even though President Donald Trump has claimed that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion for the hurricane, a White House official told NBC News on April 2 that the federal government has allocated only $40 billion for disaster relief in the U.S. territory. However, a March 25 report from The Washington Post claimed that the Trump administration is looking to limit federal funding to Puerto Rico and will reportedly not approve any money be sent to the region aside from food stamps. In a statement emailed to Elite Daily on March 27, White House spokesperson Judd Deere said,
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.
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church organization isn't low on funds with which to restore Notre Dame. According to CNN, the Vatican Bank reportedly owns nearly $8 billion in assets, and within a day of the fire, companies and wealthy donors had promised some €700 million to help fund reconstruction. So, the White House's assistance to rehabilitate the structure might not be as pressing as other matters.
Notre Dame's devastating fire was absolutely a hit to the entire world, but judging by the huge amount of donations already, it looks like it's in good hands.