President Donald Trump’s opponents are back to blaming the White House for the high number of deaths in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria bulldozed the tiny island.
Activists and politicians blame the president for the death toll, claiming that Hurricane Maria’s aftermath is one of Trump’s chief policy failures. New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand dinged the administration for failing thousands of American citizens in the eye of the storm.
“These were our fellow citizens and this administration failed them. Congress must do its job to send long-overdue resources. We can’t let this slip into silence,” Gillibrand wrote in a tweet Tuesday. Other anti-Trump activists joined the hit-parade, with one liberal journalist comparing the aftermath to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Puerto Rico just raised its official Hurricane Maria death toll to 2,975 people – 46 times more than last estimated.
These were our fellow citizens and this administration failed them. Congress must do its job to send long-overdue resources. We can’t let this slip into silence.
— Kirsten Gillibrand (@SenGillibrand) August 29, 2018
“Nearly 3,000 Americans died. Almost exactly the number that died on 9/11,” Judd Legum, a former editor-in-chief at Think Progress, told his Twitter followers Tuesday. “And this is seldom discussed as a policy failure by the Trump administration.”
Nearly 3,000 Americans died. Almost exactly the number that died on 9/11.
And this is seldom discussed as a policy failure by the Trump administration. https://t.co/c5gfJQX6YK
— Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) August 28, 2018
Gillibrand and Legum were referring to a report Tuesday from CBS showing nearly 2,975 people died on the island from September 2017 through February 2018. The report was based on a study from George Washington University (GWU) that Puerto Rico commissioned earlier in 2018. The new total is much higher than the previous official count of 64. (RELATED: Puerto Rico Admits Hurricane Death Toll Was 20 Times Higher Than Initially Reported)
Politico conducted an in-depth review in 2017 of a disaster response plan Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) crafted in 2014 and found major deficiencies that seriously complicated response time. The plan underestimated the scope of damage that a severe storm like Maria would bring to Puerto Rico, and it relied too heavily on local agencies and private sector entities to handle cleanup and restore critical services.
FEMA assumed Puerto Rican agencies would be capable of restoring the island’s power and telecommunications systems in a reasonably brief time frame. What really transpired was almost exactly the opposite scenario: the island’s already rickety power grid failed almost completely, leaving huge swaths of the island without power in what was the largest blackout in U.S. history.
Puerto Rico’s government struggled to put the island back online. The island filed for bankruptcy in May and recently closed 200 schools to save $7 million, while simultaneously issuing 107 consulting contracts since January to questionable recipients.
Island officials spent over $256 billion in federal funds from 1990 through 2009, but only collected $74 billion in tax revenue. The U.S. territory is required to prioritize its payments to creditors unless the funds go to essential services.
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