Biden Will Visit Puerto Rico to Survey Storm Damage


WASHINGTON — President Biden will travel to Puerto Rico on Monday and announce $60 million in funding to help the storm-damaged territory repair levees, mend storm walls and create a flood warning system to prepare for future storms.

“I’m heading to Puerto Rico because they haven’t been taken very good care of,” Mr. Biden told reporters as he left the White House. “They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane. I want to see the state of affairs today and make sure we push everything we can.”

The president and Jill Biden, the first lady, will visit Ponce, a city on Puerto Rico’s southern coast. It will be the first of two trips they will make this week to survey the damage from Hurricane Fiona, which caused widespread flooding and power outages throughout Puerto Rico, and Hurricane Ian, which decimated parts of southwest and Central Florida.

The Bidens will visit the Fort Myers area in Florida on Wednesday, according to a person who was familiar with the president’s plans but was not authorized to publicly describe them.

On Monday, nearly two weeks after Hurricane Fiona made landfall, utility companies in Puerto Rico were still working to restore power to thousands of customers.

The Bidens will meet with families whose homes were damaged by the storm, assemble care packages and gather with community leaders and emergency medical workers, according to a summary of the trip distributed by the White House. Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will join the Bidens on the trip.

The funding for Puerto Rico will come from the bipartisan infrastructure law that passed this year. The Biden administration pointed out that it had reversed a Trump administration policy that blocked access to additional funding.

Former President Donald J. Trump had a long-running — and often one-sided — feud with the island, beginning in 2017, when he appeared in San Juan and tossed rolls of paper towels at people whose homes and livelihoods had been destroyed by Hurricane Maria.

In 2018, Mr. Trump suggested that the death toll from Hurricanes Irma and Maria had been inflated “to make me look as bad as possible.” He continued to lash out at the island throughout his presidency.

The Biden administration has said it is committed to undoing the damage from the Trump era and helping Puerto Rico rebuild. But the island, which was severely damaged by Irma and Maria before Fiona hit, has struggled to restore infrastructure, including medical centers and hospitals. An examination of FEMA data shows that projects in Puerto Rico are backlogged compared with projects in Texas and Florida.





Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/10/03/us/politics/biden-puerto-rico-hurricane-fiona.html