Courtesy CNN

Post-hurricane Puerto Rico needlessly suffers from Trump administration foot-dragging

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Text Summit Staff

For those of us living in Hawaii, what the people of Puerto Rico are going through in the terrible aftermath of Hurricane Maria resonates. From the comparative geographical isolation of both from the mainland and unneeded debate of whether a U.S. territory -- or Pacific island state, for that matter -- warrants immediate relief efforts after a natural disaster, Puerto Rico is being screwed over by a Trump administration much too slow to help mitigate things.

As reported by Reuters on Tuesday, the Department of Homeland Security said "there was no need to waive shipping restrictions to help get fuel and supplies to storm-ravaged Puerto Rico, because it would do nothing to address the island’s main impediment to shipping, damaged ports." Compare that to when the Jones Act was waived after the immense damage that was left after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.

“It is unacceptable to force the people of Puerto Rico to pay at least twice as much for food, clean drinking water, supplies and infrastructure due to Jones Act requirements as they work to recover from this disaster,” Sen. John McCain said in a letter addressed to DHS acting head Elaine Duke. The administration’s opposition to a waiver “is raising fears on the island that they are going to be left behind in this disaster," says Juan Declet-Barreto of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

In a must-read overview posted by Vox, a new poll published by the New York Times shows a woeful ignorance about Puerto Rico: Only 54 percent of Americans know that Puerto Ricans are U.S. citizens -- all 3.1 million of them. And, incredibly, 44 percent of those who didn’t know supported relief efforts.

Count the president as one of the ignorant. Comments Trump made Tuesday, not surprisingly, does not reveal a whit of knowledge and empathy over the humanitarian crisis: “This is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. And it's a big ocean; it's a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job.”

But finally, a week after the hurricane hit, FEMA administrator Brock Long announced on Tuesday that the USNS Comfort, a Navy hospital ship, was on its way to Puerto Rico. FEMA reports that only 11 of 69 hospitals have power or are running on generators.

If you want to help, the Vox article gives a list of organizations providing aid. We've also added a link to the Hispanic Federation's donation page. The non-profit was one of the first to start an UNIDOS Disaster Relief Fund for those in Mexico and Puerto Rico.

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