Trump defends aid to Puerto Rico after Alex Cora says he won’t attend White House celebration
President Trump on Monday defended his administration’s response to Hurricane Maria, the day after Red Sox manager Alex Cora cited the issue as the reason he will not join the team’s White House visit.
In a pair of tweets on Monday morning, Trump incorrectly claimed $91 billion had gone toward rebuilding Puerto Rico in the wake of the devastating 2017 hurricane that caused thousands of deaths and decimated the island’s infrastructure.
“Puerto Rico should be very happy and the Dems should stop blocking much needed Disaster Relief,” Trump tweeted.
....Alabama, Iowa, Nebraska, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and others unless much more money is given to Puerto Rico. The Dems don’t want farmers to get any help. Puerto Rico should be very happy and the Dems should stop blocking much needed Disaster Relief!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 6, 2019
Trump’s tweets came the day after Cora said that he would not make the trip to the White House to celebrate the Red Sox’ 2018 World Series win, and also amid a Congressional battle over relief for Puerto Rico and other states affected by natural disasters.
Cora confirmed over the weekend that he would not appear at the White House for the team’s visit on Thursday.
“Puerto Rico is very important to me. During the winter I spent a lot of time back home, visiting my family and friends. Unfortunately, we are still struggling, still fighting. Some people still lack basic necessities, others remain without electricity and many homes and schools are in pretty bad shape almost a year and a half after Hurricane María struck,” Cora told a newspaper in Puerto Rico in comments published Sunday.
A White House spokesman did not respond to an e-mail request from the Globe for comment on Cora’s decision to skip Thursday’s event.
Trump has been criticized for his handling of the disaster response. Supplies and personnel were slow in arriving to the island in the critical days following landfall, according to a 2018 Frontline investigation.
Trump also bickered with local officials who were pleading for help and tossed paper towels at people lined up to obtain basic supplies during his visit to the island.
And contrary to the president’s cliams, Puerto Rico has not received $91 billion in disaster aid. According to the Washington Post and Politifact, about $41 billion in funding has been approved, much of it still unspent. The additional $50 billion is an estimate of what the government could be liable for in the coming decades.
Politifact notes that the federal government is still making payments for issues related to Hurricane Katrina.
Trump is currently in the midst of a funding battle with Democrats over disaster relief. At issue is a $14 billion — and growing — disaster aid measure that was blocked by Senate Democrats last month in a standoff over additional funds for Puerto Rico. Democrats also say the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which dispenses block grants for rebuilding projects, has been slow to award the funding that lawmakers have already approved.
The legislation also combines aid to Southern farmers, California communities devastated by last summer’s wildfire, and hurricane-hit states such as Florida, Georgia and North Carolina. Hurricane-damaged military bases in Florida and North Carolina would receive rebuilding funds, as would Alaskans recovering from last year’s earthquake.