It’s been 254 days since Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico.
A new study reports a death count of 4,645 in the hurricane’s aftermath—more fatalities than 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina combined. And yet, the government count stands at 64, highlighting the total lack of urgency with which the Trump Administration has approached relief efforts.
The island is still without consistent access to electricity and fresh water, and, today, hurricane season begins, bringing a menacing threat of more death and suffering to an island that is staggeringly unprepared.
Officials say that Puerto Rico’s teetering power grid cannot withstand a Category 1 storm. For reference, Hurricane Maria was a Category 5. Patients in need are without access to medical care or basic electricity. Children are without schools.
“We are forgotten,” one man told ABC News. And they have been—by a president, a government, a country, and a system that views Puerto Ricans as less American.
These American citizens continue to suffer while their president tweets about Martha Stewart and NFL outrage (which he also did during his first weekend visiting a devastated Puerto Rico following Maria).
But this is not about tweets, this is about action and priorities, and the President needs to start putting as much effort into helping his all of his constituents as he does his golf game or attacking the Russia investigation.
TRUMP’S RESPONSE TO HARVEY V. MARIA
When hurricanes hit, it’s the U.S. government’s job to provide relief. But this is not necessarily the case if you’re not white. According to a recent American Progress report, disaster relief is historically much slower (and often non-existent) in communities of color affected by natural disasters.
Additionally, extreme weather events are incredibly expensive, particularly on low- and middle-income communities and communities of color with fewer resources for recovery and rebuilding.
Trump’s responses to Hurricanes Harvey and Maria illustrate these gross disparities:
- Within 6 days of Harvey, Houston had the help of 73 helicopters to assist in critical emergency response. It took 3 weeks for Puerto Rico to have more than 70.
- 9 days after the respective disasters, FEMA approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims. For Puerto Ricans? $6.2 million.
- Trump tweeted about Harvey three times as much as he tweeted about Maria—a key stat considering Twitter is Trump’s main form of communication.
- The FEMA employee responsible for disaster recovery didn’t go to Puerto Rico for three weeks after Maria made landfall. Instead, he stayed in an already-stabilizing Houston.
HURRICANES WILL ONLY GET WORSE
Hurricane season begins today on the one-year anniversary of Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. Climate change makes hurricanes worse, and the president took a deliberate step against what may be the final-ditch effort to mitigate global warming—and in turn prevent more Americans from suffering devastation like that seen in Puerto Rico.
You can explore several CAP products on Hurricane Maria and climate inaction ranging from analyses of disaster relief by race to road maps for strong, sustainable rebuilds in the wake of disasters.