Puerto Rico hurricane evacuees in the Orlando area will begin fleeing FEMA-sponsored short-term housing as soon as next week, with others to follow in March 20.
Calls began months ago to pressure the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the deadline for the dozens of people who are still grappling with the sudden homelessness brought on by two back-to-back hurricanes.
FEMA states the program was temporary, which is true, and this week published a press release with the condescending title, “How to Create Permanent Housing Plans,” as if the agency were addressing ignorant people. Item No. 3: “Achieve long-term housing goals in a reasonable time frame.”
In a series of tweets, President Donald Trump has politicized the hurricane tragedy in Puerto Rico, where 3.4 million Puerto Ricans are desperately coping without water, electricity, work, cash, low food supplies and much more.
When Harvey flooded Houston, Trump didn’t tweet about the city’s lack of zoning codes and its growth-at-all-cost plan to pave over its plains, which caused huge water runoff and flooding. It was not the moment to blame the flood victims, who had lost nearly everything, for their leaders’ poor political decisions. Indeed, Trump has visited Texas twice since Harvey struck the state.
When Irma smashed into Florida, Trump didn’t tweet about how the dismantling of growth management and other protections over eight years has opened up the state for disaster. Or how the weakening of nursing home rules in a state with the highest population of elderly in the nation may have led to the deaths of 11 people in a South Florida nursing home whose license should have been yanked years ago.
Now comes Puerto Rico, with the worse hurricane disaster in the modern history of the United States, and instead of sending more water, food and aid, Trump blames the victims for the poor political decisions of their leaders, tweeting on Monday:
Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble…It’s old electrical grid, which was in terrible shape, was devastated. Much of the Island was destroyed, with billions of dollars…….owed to Wall Street and the banks which, sadly, must be dealt with. Food, water and medical are top priorities – and doing well. #FEMA
This right here is the morally bankrupt equivalent of former President George W. Bush’s words to former FEMA chief Michael Brown for a job well done – not! – shortly after Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi in 2005. “Brownie, you’re doin’ a heckuva a job.”
“Brownie” ended up resigning from FEMA when the images of unattended needs and massive suffering during and post Katrina were plastered all over television and newspapers.
Puerto Rico Not Doing Well
Mr. President, Puerto Rico is not doing well. Hurricane María is way bigger than Katrina. More aid is needed. Where is the water, food, fuel, electricity? Even Gov. Ricardo Rosselló is complaining about the response.
He is asking for Defense Department help for more search-and-rescue missions. In other words, a week after Hurricane María made landfall people are still missing. About 24 of 78 municipalities have not been declared federal disaster areas. Cell communication is down in 92 percent of the island, per the Federal Communications Commission. The gas pumps are still dry. It’s unlikely Puerto Rico can repay FEMA aid.
Do Your Job
There will come a day when we can tackle the issues of poor zoning and construction in Houston, weakened regulations in Florida and poor infrastructure and high debt in Puerto Rico. But this is not that day.
Do your job. Tend to the needs of the men, women and children drowning in this tragedy in Puerto Rico – or get the heck out the way.