FEMA doesn’t want that smoke, does about-face after announcing end to Puerto Rican recovery efforts
Call-out culture has gotten a lot of criticism, but call-outs retain political utility. When policymakers who have many lives entrusted to them, experience quick, broad and furious criticism they sometimes adjust their plans. They sometimes do the right thing. Puerto Rico is a prime example.
Puerto Rican government officials said they were given no notice that federal assistance to the recovering island, through food and water distribution, would be phased out. These officials, along with mainland legislators from both political parties, exerted political pressure after hearing that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was slated to phase out its post-hurricane recovery efforts this week. In Puerto Rico, some people still struggle without proper food, water or electricity. Lo and behold, an official retraction came.
“Provision of those commodities will continue,” spokesman William Booher told NPR. The publication also reported that Delyris Aquino-Santiago, also a spokesperson, previously said FEMA would “officially shut off” food and water assistance in Puerto Rico by January 31. As Aquino-Santiago had described it, local government would step up and distribute the necessities. But by Wednesday, Booher called the January date erroneous.
On the Senate floor, Florida Democratic Senator Bill Nelson said he was “absolutely shocked” that FEMA would end its assistance of these Americans at this vulnerable point. “I urge the administration to reverse this disastrous decision immediately and to continue providing the people of Puerto Rico with the help that they need as they are trying to recover from two disastrous hurricanes,” Nelson said.
The federal about-face followed severe criticism of President Donald Trump, whose State of the Union address referenced solidarity with and love of Puerto Ricans while many Puerto Rican people’s lives and sustenance remain in limbo. While this interim victory eased some concerns about people on the island, the actual deadline for when the federal government transfers these responsibilities to Puerto Rico has not been made public yet.