By Nicole Acevedo
Sixteen months after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, residents like Tati Morales in the Cercadillo neighborhood of Cayey, Puerto Rico are still struggling to get reliable access to potable water, phone service and a secure home.
“We almost have no lighting in our public roads, risking accidents,” said Morales. “The infrastructure in general is still very weak — many streets in our neighborhood collapsed and they’re still like that.”
Morales said she hopes the reports that President Donald Trump could use $2.5 billion set aside to finance reconstruction projects in the island to pay for a U.S.-Mexico border wall are “really some sort of publicity and that is not going to become a reality.”
The alternative is too alarming.
“It’s barbarous and another way to hit us,” she said in Spanish. “What more can we take?”
Like other communities across the island, residents in Cercadillo have been working with nonprofits trying to rebuild before hurricane season starts this summer.
With the help of nonprofit organizations, they’re building some homes for elders who lost their houses and families have invested in having access to water tanks, generators and other necessities in order to be better prepared in the case of another disaster.
“This kind of work continues and it’s a long road,” said Morales.
Part of that reconstruction work is set to be financed with more than $20 billion in federal funds assigned to help Puerto Rico revamp its electrical grid and home inventory. Puerto Rico has not received most of the federally-approved funds yet.
Puerto Rican officials in the U.S. and the island — from both sides of the political spectrum — blasted the administration over the possibility.
“It would be appalling for the President to take money from places like Puerto Rico that have suffered enormous catastrophes, costing thousands of American citizens lives, in order to pay for Donald Trump’s foolish, offensive and hateful wall,” said Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y. in a statement. “Siphoning funding from real disasters to pay for a crisis manufactured by the President is wholly unacceptable and the American people won’t fall for it.”
Puerto Rico’s non-voting member of Congress Jenniffer González Colón, who leans Republican, explicitly rejected “that game with our pain and hopes” and said she “will not support the reallocation of funds, which we approved in a bipartisan effort in Congress for the recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico.”
“The humanitarian crisis on the southern border of the United States, identified by both President Obama and President Trump, can not be resolved by removing money approved for disaster mitigation in Puerto Rico at the expense of the poorest American citizens, treated with total inequality,” González Colón said in a statement.
Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló said there was “no justification” for reclassifying the money.
“If anything, the conversation should be how we get more resources to rebuild those impacted areas faster,” Rosselló said via Twitter. “No wall should be funded on the pain and suffering of US citizens who have endured tragedy and loss through a natural disaster.”
For over a year, Trump and his administration have been criticized over their response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
In the immediate aftermath of the storm, over 200,000 Puerto Ricans left for the mainland — some temporarily — and Puerto Rico incurred about $90 billion in damages.
When President Trump first visited the disaster area in Oct. 2017, he said that Puerto Rico was not a “real catastrophe” like Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Months later, a study commissioned by the Puerto Rican government revealed that at least 2,975 people died in Puerto Rico from the effects of Hurricane Maria — including a lack of electricity, impassable roads and a scarcity of medications and other provisions — making it the deadliest natural disaster in the U.S. in 100 years.
Trump has not yet publicly acknowledged or mourned the victims of the deadly catastrophe following the revised figures.
Federal government offices such as FEMA acknowledged agency failures in areas such as staffing and coordination in an after-action report, while agencies like HUD allocated historic amounts of funding for the island in the area of housing, infrastructure and energy — but most of the money has not made its way to communities in need.
Velázquez and other members of Congress, including Rep. José Serrano, D-N.Y., vowed to fight back against any efforts to divert relief funds for the wall.
“I wish I could say this is unbelievable, but this is sadly in keeping with Donald Trump’s disregard for Puerto Rico and for Latinos. Stealing from the recovery effort to fund the wall is beyond reprehensible. As an appropriator, I’ll do everything in my power to stop it,” said Serrano on Twitter.
‘I will TELEPATHICALLY stop you!’ Uri Geller sends Theresa May BIZARRE Brexit warning
Rep. Steve King slammed as ‘white supremacist’ for remarks about Katrina victims
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/ Source: Associated Press
By Dartunorro Clark
WASHINGTON — GOP Rep. Steve King is under fire after he told constituents at a town hall that victims of Hurricane Katrina pleaded for help from the government in contrast to residents of his home state of Iowa who “take care of each other.”
“Here’s what FEMA tells me: We go to a place like New Orleans and everybody’s looking around saying, ‘Who’s gonna help me, who’s gonna help me?’ When FEMA responds to problems in Iowa, they’re just always gratified when they come and see how Iowans take care of each other,” the Iowa lawmaker told a town hall meeting in Charter Oak, Iowa, on Thursday.
King said he visited New Orleans, which is a majority black city, multiple times after the deadly 2005 storm. More than 1,800 people, mostly black, died from the disaster; however, government officials have noted that the true death toll could be much higher.
Recent spring flooding in the Midwest has devastated towns and rural communities across the region and has been blamed for three deaths.
Rep. Cedric L. Richmond, D-La., whose district includes New Orleans, said in a tweet on Thursday that the remarks are more evidence that King is a “white supremacist.”
“My heart goes out to all Iowans. Though it unsettles me that @SteveKingIA would dare compare them to the countless victims of Katrina, many of whom lost their lives. When people show you who they are, believe them. Steve King is a white supremacist and I won’t stand for it,” Richmond said.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, also blasted King in a tweet on Thursday, calling his comments “disgusting and disheartening.”
“These comments are disgusting and disheartening. When communities are affected by disasters, we come together to help each other, not tear each other down,” he said.
King was one of 11 members of Congress to vote against a bill to help victims of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 because he said the $51.8 billion aid package was too expensive. He called it a “good” and “principled” vote, according to HuffPost.
King’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.
King has been under fire from his party for remarks about race. In January, GOP voted unanimously to remove King from all committees amid the uproar over his comments about white nationalism. The move came after he questioned why “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization” was offensive in an interview with The New York Times.
“How did that language become offensive?” he asked. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., told reporters at the time that King’s language is “reckless, wrong, and has no place in our society.”
King later backtracked in a statement at the time, saying, “I reject white nationalism. I reject white supremacy. It’s not part of any of my ideology. I reject anyone who carries that ideology.”`
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