Oprah Winfrey is putting $2 million of her own mega-fortune toward the continuing effort to rebuild Puerto Rico, a year and a half after the Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on the people, the infrastructure, and the landscape of the American island. (In case you were wondering, she’s currently estimated to be worth about $3 billion.)
Half of Winfrey’s largess will be going toward the long-term relief efforts funded by the Hispanic Federation’s UNIDOS Disaster Relief & Recovery Program. As of December 2018, Unidos por Puerto Rico has distributed upwards of $40 million in funding to relief organizations since Hurricane Maria first hit the island, covering everything from resources like food and water to investment in economic development to the repair and rebuilding of homes.
The other half will be earmarked for Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Flamboyan Arts Fund that allocates grants for arts and culture projects on the island. In a statement, Winfrey cited Miranda’s relief efforts as the inspiration for her donation. “I was so moved by Lin-Manuel Miranda’s commitment to bring ‘Hamilton’ to Puerto Rico and support the community that served him growing up that I wanted to join in the revitalization efforts of an island so rich in culture, beauty and heritage.” She acknowledged that there is still a great need for aid on the island and that the work “is long from over.”
Winfrey’s announcement comes a week after a comprehensive disaster spending bill failed to advance in the Senate, though it passed in the House earlier this year with the support of several Republicans. The bill would have allocated federal funding toward areas recovering from flooding, storms, and wildfires that have crippled parts of the West, Midwest, and South, as well as Puerto Rico.
Trump reportedly urged his congressional supporters to reject the bill on the basis that Puerto Rico would only squander relief aid. “Puerto Rico got 91 Billion Dollars for the hurricane, more money than has ever been gotten for a hurricane before, & all their local politicians do is complain & ask for more money,” he tweeted last week. “The pols are grossly incompetent, spend the money foolishly or corruptly, & only take from USA….” You know, because Puerto Rico isn’t part of the USA or anything. Also, Puerto Rico has not, in fact, gotten nearly $100 billion in hurricane relief; they’ve only received about $11 billion so far.
While the president supports sending $600 million in food aid to Puerto Rico, he has made his position clear that he no longer wants to put money toward rebuilding the island.