'We owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot': Biden will visit to assess Fiona recovery efforts




  • In Politics
  • 2022-10-03 09:00:30Z
  • By USA TODAY

President Joe Biden on Monday aims to show Puerto Ricans they have not been forgotten as they struggle to recover from Hurricane Fiona, which hit the island a week before Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida.

Biden is visiting the U.S. territory two days before he travels to Florida to assess rescue and recovery efforts there.

While Fiona was a Category 1 hurricane compared to Category 4 Ian, Puerto Rico had never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria, which destroyed the electrical system and killed roughly 3,000 people in 2017.

Biden and other administration officials have said Puerto Rico is owed more than it's gotten and needs to come back stronger than it was before.

Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept.
Homes are flooded on Salinas Beach after the passing of Hurricane Fiona in Salinas, Puerto Rico, Monday, Sept.  

The latest

  • After Fiona brought islandwide power outages, 90% of customers have been restored with power. But about 130,000 still lacked power on Sunday, according to the tracking website PowerOutage.

  • Although Fiona's winds were not as strong as Maria's, the hurricane caused a lot of water damage compared to previous storms. Puerto Rico experienced widespread landslides, damaged homes, washed-out bridges and downed power lines as torrential rains flooded the island.

  • The federal government is paying for 30 days worth of recovery actions, including debris removal, search and rescue efforts, emergency food and shelter, and power and water restoration.

  • The federal government has also temporarily waived a federal law to allow for foreign diesel deliveries to help power generators.

  • During his visit, Biden is expected to announce Puerto Rico is receiving more than $60 million from an infrastructure package approved  last year. The money is for shoring up levees, strengthening flood walls, and creating a new flood warning system.

Too much?: Will Puerto Ricans head to the mainland US after Hurricane Fiona?

A man collects donated water bottles for drinking after Hurricane Fiona damaged water supplies in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept.
A man collects donated water bottles for drinking after Hurricane Fiona damaged water supplies in Toa Baja, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept.  

What's about to happen?

Biden is making his first trip as president to Puerto Rico, where he'll met with families and community leaders. He'll be briefed on ongoing recovery efforts and help pack bags with food and other essential items.

"We see what you're going through, and we're with you," Biden tweeted Sunday.

He'll be accompanied by first lady Jill Biden and by Deanne Criswell, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

FEMA and other federal agencies have deployed more than 1,000 workers to Puerto Rico to assist the 700 employees based on the island. The personnel included search and rescue teams, bilingual Disaster Survivor Assistance Teams and power restoration experts.

President Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd as he hands out supplies at Calvary Chapel, Tuesday, Oct.
President Donald Trump tosses paper towels into a crowd as he hands out supplies at Calvary Chapel, Tuesday, Oct.  

Biden and Fiona, Trump and Maria

Biden's handling of Hurricane Fiona may draw comparisons with former President Donald Trump's dealings with Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Trump accused island officials of poor leadership, wasteful spending and not appreciating his administration's efforts to help. The mayor of San Juan, whose leadership was criticized by Trump, in turn went after Trump for tossing rolls of paper towels into a crowd when he visited the island after Maria struck.

The Biden administration, however, has drawn some criticism of its own for Fiona. Some community and nonprofit leaders questioned why Biden's disaster declaration didn't initially cover all of Puerto Rico and complained of slow-flowing aid, Politico has reported.

Puerto Ricans are also concerned their needs will be overshadowed by Florida's.

Nelson Cirino sees his bedroom after the winds of hurricane Fiona tore the roof off his house in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept.
Nelson Cirino sees his bedroom after the winds of hurricane Fiona tore the roof off his house in Loiza, Puerto Rico, Sunday, Sept.  

What they are saying

  • "We owe Puerto Rico a hell of a lot more than they've already gotten," Biden said Saturday at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation's Phoenix Awards.

  • "It is our fundamental priority to help Puerto Rico not only recover, but to actually prosper," Vice President Kamala Harris said.

  • "We are committed to continuing to work with the governor of Puerto Rico in his efforts to make sure that we can rebuild this grid in a way that's actually going to be more resilient for future impacts," Criswell told reporters last week.

  • "I am sure that both in Florida and Puerto Rico we WILL come back from this disaster, and as Americans we must all stand together, in a bipartisan way to make sure the rebuilding happens visibly and promptly," tweeted Jenniffer González-Colón, Puerto Rico's delegate in Congress.

Want to know more?

After Hurricane Ian came the floods.: These people rallied to rescue residents, horses, cows

Low expectations: After Hurricane Ian hits Fort Myers, Black neighborhood residents say they aren't counting on much help

What's next?: Ian, Fiona shattered hopes for a quiet hurricane season. What's next?

Names: See the list of tropical storm and hurricane names for 2022

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Biden visits Puerto Rico, hit hard by Hurricane Fiona

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