On Tuesday, Donald Trump made the following statement:
“The job that FEMA and law enforcement and everybody did, working along with the Governor in Puerto Rico, I think was tremendous. I think that Puerto Rico was an incredible, unsung success. If you ask the governor, he’ll tell you what a great job.”
Not content with that, on Wednesday morning at 5:51 a.m., he tweeted …
“We got A Pluses for our recent hurricane work in Texas and Florida (and did an unappreciated great job in Puerto Rico, even though an inaccessible island with very poor electricity and a totally incompetent Mayor of San Juan). We are ready for the big one that is coming!”
Undoubtedly, some fell for his braggadocio, but for most of us, it was a jaw-dropping moment, knowing as we do that our response in Puerto Rico was anything but ‘great’. A year later, Puerto Rico still struggles. Remember Trump’s sole contribution?Puerto Ricans are still struggling with basic necessities. Fully 83% reported either major damage to their homes, losing power for more than three months, employment setbacks or worsening health problems, among other effects of the storm. The power is spotty, and many are leery of drinking the water. Roads are damaged, dangerous, and difficult to navigate — like “the surface of the moon,” according to one resident — and in some places, the roadways remain impassible.
Eighty percent of Puerto Ricans rate Trump’s response to Maria negatively, an assessment that contradicts the president’s claim two weeks ago that “most of the people in Puerto Rico appreciate what we’ve done.”
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who Trump had suggested the press ask about the great job we had done, responded:
The most recent death toll from Hurricane Maria is 2,975. Nearly three thousand people died, and Trump calls it an “unsung success”? No, this was no success, it was a disaster … a damn disaster!
Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report assessing how recovery efforts had fared. Among their findings …
- Problems with debris removal and a shortage of proper equipment for the task. “Officials said there were resource constraints,” the report reads, “so they had to prioritize debris removal from state-managed roads, before clearing local roads.”
- Insufficient bilingual employees to communicate with residents and translate documents.
- Not enough generators were available to meet demand, and not enough recovery material was positioned on the island in advance of the storm. The day before Maria made landfall, four generators had been delivered to the island. Thirty-five were delivered to Texas ahead of Harvey.
- About 1.6 million meals and 700,000 liters of water were delivered and eight shelters opened to hold 306 people. By contrast, before Irma made landfall in Florida, 4.8 million meals and 9.9 million liters of water were delivered and 249 shelters were opened to hold nearly 50,000 people. That Puerto Rico is harder to access than Florida is both accurate and noted in the report.
- FEMA faced a staff shortage of 37 percent as of Sept. 1, 2017. Of “reservists” called up to aid the recovery efforts in all the disasters, 46 percent of those deployed last year were not rated as “qualified” for their job functions. At least 15 percent refused a deployment for medical or other reasons.
- Many reservists on Puerto Rico “were not physically fit to handle conditions on the island,” according to one official, who suggested that “a fitness test should have been required before they were eligible to deploy.”
- Volunteers similarly indicated that their skill sets weren’t matched to assigned tasks and that training was insufficient.
And that death toll. Nearly 3,000 people – human beings, U.S. citizens. 😢 No, Donald Trump, we were not in the least bit successful, despite your throwing paper towels at people who had just lost everything.