WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — President Donald Trump held a news briefing Friday to address Puerto Rico’s $11.6 billion aid package and to report that “enough doses of the COVID-19 vaccine” will be available by April 2021.
The federal government will award an $11.6 billion aid package to Puerto Rico, focused on the territory’s energy and education systems, to help the island recover from the devastation brought by 2017’s Hurricane Maria, the White House said on Friday.
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) will provide $9.6 billion in funding for the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority to make replacements, repairs and improvements to equipment and buildings, the White House said.
The federal government will also provide an additional $2 billion grant for Puerto Rico’s Education Department, the White House said.
In a statement announcing the aid, the White House said, “Together, these grants exceed the total Public Assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.”
Gov. Wanda Vázquez announced the funding in a series of tweets, thanking Trump for his approval of the assistance amid criticism that his administration has been slow to release support for the devastated island in the wake of Maria.
“The Trump Administration delayed, dragged its feet and resisted allocating these badly needed funds,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-D), who was born in Puerto Rico. “Now, forty-six days before the election, the Administration has finally seen fit to release these funds.”
Hurricane Maria slammed into the island in September 2017 with winds of 155 mph, causing an estimated $100 billion in damage and killing nearly 3,000 people, according to the official death toll. Even now, thousands of homes are still damaged.
Power wasn’t restored island-wide until nearly 11 months after the storm. Even now, the system remains vulnerable, with outages affecting tens of thousands of people on a regular basis.
In October, the island’s government announced a 10-year plan to modernize and strengthen the power grid at a projected cost of around $20 billion. Congress has approved about $50 billion to help rebuild the island, home to more than 3 million U.S. citizens.