On Monday, President Biden traveled to Ponce, Puerto Rico to meet with the families whose lives have been affected by Hurricane Fiona. He promised to ensure the necessary preparations are in place for future storms on the island.
Biden announced that more than $60 million in funding will be given to the coastal areas to help rebuild and to aid in future storms. Puerto Rico’s Hurricane season ends on December 1 every year.
“And I mean to rebuild it all, and rebuild it in a resilient way, so that when storms come again, which they will, they’re not having the damage that they’ve caused before,” said Biden.
The main story out of Puerto Rico was the storm.
But there’s another story – what ordinary people did when the storm hit. pic.twitter.com/CaKeADnHNU
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 4, 2022
Biden went on to acknowledge what Puerto Rico has been through over the last few years, including Hurricane Maria, a 6.4 magnitude earthquake, COVID-19, and now Fiona.
“And yes, Puerto Rico is a strong place, and Puerto Ricans are strong people. But even so, you have had to bear so much and more than need be, and you haven’t gotten the help in a timely way,” said Biden.
Puerto Rico has been through a lot
Truer words have never been spoken. Puerto Rico has suffered plenty. Historically, aid has also taken way too long to find its way to the island. Do we remember the disastrous response of the previous administration?
Much of the repairs and work done after Hurricane Maria was washed away by Hurricane Fiona. Many of the roads and bridges were taken down thanks to Fiona’s relentless fury. Families who worked so hard to rebuild their homes are once again experiencing a devastating loss. Crops and farms are enduring destruction as well.
A waiting game for aid
Puerto Rico has yet to see the majority of the billions of dollars approved by Congress after Maria. Nonetheless, Biden said the island would receive every dollar promised.
The 46th U.S. president is working to expedite a major disaster declaration, which will cover the debris removal, carry out search and rescue, and continue to provide shelter. Homeowners, renters, and business owners are also eligible to apply for federal help to recover from damage caused by Fiona.
The response from Biden’s administration
So far, more than 1,200 personnel have been deployed from FEMA, the Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Department of Energy, and the Environmental Protection Agency.
As a result of these efforts, along with the help of local first responders, the Puerto Rican National Guard, and Red Cross volunteers, over 90 percent of the island now has electricity and water. But let’s not forget the first night of Fiona when there was an island-wide blackout. This shouldn’t be the case with a category one hurricane.
The Biden administration is providing financial assistance to help families and individuals who are struggling to pay their bills and put food on the table.
“Yet somehow, the people of Puerto Rico keep getting back up with resilience and determination. Quite frankly, it’s pretty extraordinary, when you look at it from afar. And you deserve every bit of help your country can give you,” said Biden.
It’s not about resilience and determination though. There is clear negligence, which is negatively affecting Puerto Rican civilians. Most of the time, Puerto Ricans feel like they can only rely on each other and it shouldn’t be this way.
The day after Hurricane Fiona, churches and community organizations opened kitchens throughout the island to prepare meals – for pickup and delivery for those who needed it. Not surprising at all, as this truly exemplifies the spirit and cultura of Puerto Rico.
Still, things need to change and every government official needs to walk their talk – immediately. It’s long overdue.
The island has been let down multiple times, but we’re hopeful that this administration will continue to deliver. Puerto Rico deserves that and more.