The Trump administration on Friday announced it is sending nearly $13 billion in federal aid to Puerto Rico to help it recover from 2017's devastating Hurricane Maria.
The White House said the aid, directed at the territory’s energy and education systems, exceeds the total public assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy in 2005.
The announcement comes just days after Trump’s presidential rival, Democrat Joe Biden, courted Hispanic voters in Kissimmee, Florida, which received a big influx of people from Puerto Rico after the territory was devastated by Maria three years ago.
Biden cited what he called Trump’s “neglect” of Puerto Rico, echoing top Democrats Friday who said Trump had delayed and withheld the aid for the last three years, stunting Puerto Rico's ability to rebuild from the storm that killed more than 2,500 people and left the island without power for weeks.
Biden also reminded voters of Trump's response on a visit to the island after Maria during which he tossed paper towels into a crowd in a manner similar to tossing basketballs into a hoop.
(FORMER VICE PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN):
“I'm not going to throw paper towels at people whose lives have just been devastated by a hurricane. The world saw that not just the United - the world saw that, it was mortifying.”
Trump has defended his handling of the hurricane recovery effort.
“Why not three years ago – why 46 days until the election?”
Questioned about the timing of the aid package Friday, Trump blamed Democrats and said, “We’ve been working on it for a long time to get it passed.”
Since Maria, Puerto Rico has weathered more hurricanes, earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and political upheaval, as well as increased federal scrutiny into its use of U.S. aid.