The future of the Puerto Rican recovery in question
The divide between the Trump administration and Puerto Rico’s government was well-documented throughout the buildup and aftermath of Hurricane Maria. President Trump has come out in a series of public statements, saying that the monetary funds diverted to Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery were “beyond belief” and that the Puerto Rican government was nonetheless still asking for substantial more funds.
In reality, FEMA has authorized disaster relief funds to the tune of $60 billion, while Puerto Rican officials have stated that the recovery process will cost upwards of $139 billion. President Trump, while criticizing what he calls incompetent government officials in Puerto Rico, has been reluctant to commit any additional funding to aid recovery efforts. The reluctance from the federal government has forced to address some critical areas of their disaster relief efforts going forward.
With an eye to the future, and eventual future disasters, Governor Rosselló has doubled down on his efforts to begin building a competent disaster recovery program for Puerto Rico. The “9/20 Committee”, conceptualized earlier this year, has been introduced and is in the early stages of implementation. The committee, named after the date in which Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, seeks to develop better fatality reporting guidelines in times of disaster. The large gap between Washington and Puerto Rico on the exact number of fatalities caused by Hurricane Maria has been a determining factor in recovery funds in the wake of the disaster, with an over 2,000 person difference between the current administration’s estimates and Puerto Rican government estimates.
Governor Rosselló believes that the program the committee will set forth can and should be utilized by other territories as well as US states, Rosselló expanded by stating that the 9/20 Committee will improve overall accountability and management of information in the aftermath of both manmade and natural disasters. While the committee seeks to answer for issues that arose in the wake of Hurricane Maria, it still leaves significant ground to cover in terms of saving lives after the next tragedy.