White House officials on Thursday touted President Donald Trump and his administration’s “historic recovery effort” and “significant progress” in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria devastated the island a year ago.
But even a cursory look at what has occurred over the last year would counter the administration’s glowing press release, beginning with the nearly 3,000 people who died because of the storm, as reported in a George Washington University study. Trump has falsely claimed those figures were fabricated by Democrats.
Trump has constantly shifted blame to local officials on the island, as well as Puerto Rico’s financial crisis. In a notorious visit to Puerto Rico last October to survey the devastation, the president appeared to show a lack of empathy for storm survivors, making much of the trip about himself.
The administration’s celebratory press release Thursday touted signs of recovery, such as restoring 99 percent of power, water, roads and cellphone service in the year since the storm.
A year since Hurricane Maria, conditions for the storm survivors remain dire.
More than 2,000 Puerto Ricans remain homeless or displaced after FEMA ended a transitional housing program this month.
To add to children’s woes after the storm, Puerto Rico officials shuttered 255 public schools at the end of the last school year, in part because of the storm and in part due to the island’s financial crisis.
In July, FEMA acknowledged its botched response in a report about its handling of the storm. But there are still many questions.
FEMA officials earlier this year moved a stockpile of about 20,000 pallets of water outside as a cost-saving measure. The water bottles became unusable after months in the heat, and the agency only admitted the problem when a photo of the water bottles went viral this month.
Trump has nevertheless hailed the administration’s handling of the storm. Last week, as Hurricane Florence headed toward the Carolinas, he again praised the administration, saying that “Puerto Rico was an incredible unsung success” and “unappreciated great job.”