Federal help for Caribbean territories after Hurricane Irma

by | Sep 7, 2017 | Federal Government, Headlines | Comments

The US territories of US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are to receive help from the federal government after declarations of emergencies were approved by the President. The declarations allow for funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for recovery efforts, including road cleanup and emergency medical assistance, especially needed in the US Virgin Islands where two hospitals had to be evacuated.

Puerto Rico was saved from the brunt of the hurricane’s impact, but still had significant damage, leaving millions without power, destroying homes in the island municipality of Culebra on the east, and the Añasco river flowing out of its bank in the west.

President Donald Trump made it a point to have it known he was personally involved in overseeing the response to the hurricane’s aftermath, tweeting about his phone calls with the governors of Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, Rick Scott (R), Ricardo Rosselló (D) and Kenneth Mapp (I), respectively.

In addition to the executive’s actions, the United States House of Representatives approved an emergency funds package, initially meant for the victims of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Louisiana, but that could also help Irma’s victims in the territories and Florida. However, the amount approved, $7 billion, won’t be nearly enough to address the damage in Texas alone, where estimates of the damage exceed $100 billion. This as FEMA’s emergency relief fund whittled down to little more than $1 billion.

Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner Jenniffer Gonzalez (R) pointed out the need in the islands, facing already a dire crisis, including a doctors’ exodus and highlighted the federal administration’s response to the hurricane. Addressing the exodus in particular, Puerto Rico also received an public health emergency declaration from US Secretary of Health Tom Price.

Life on the territories is slowly returning to normal, with Puerto Rico’s classes returning Monday and its main airport already open. In the Virgin Islands, a curfew was partially lifted on St. Croix, as the government evaluated the damage in the other two islands.