President Donald Trump on Thursday threatened to withdraw federal aid from Puerto Rico as the U.S. territory continues struggling to recover from back-to-back hurricanes.
In a series of tweets, Trump quoted conservative journalist and frequent Fox News guest Sharyl Attkison blaming Puerto Rico for its festering financial crisis and suggested Federal Emergency Management Agency aid could soon end.
“Congress to decide how much to spend,” Trump tweeted. “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”
Puerto Rican officials have pleaded with the government for more help after the island was pounded by major hurricanes Irma and Maria last month. The San Juan mayor, among others, has harshly criticized the Trump administration response.
The House of Representatives is set to vote Thursday on a disaster relief bill that includes a $4.9 billion loan for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Puerto Rican governor estimates $95 billion in damage.
Almost 90 percent of the island remained without power and more than one-third was without access to drinking water. Impassable roads blocked rescue and recovery crews from remote areas. More than 5,700 people were still living in shelters, according to a government website tracking Puerto Rico’s recovery.
FEMA officials told The Guardian the government and its partners provide 200,000 meals a day, but millions of people are in need of aid.
Last week, Trump announced a vague plan to “wipe” away the Puerto Rican government’s $73 billion debt. White House Budget Director Mick Mulvaney attempted to walk back the president’s comments.
Trump, meanwhile, has repeatedly praised himself and his administration for what he claims is a job well done. He visited the island last week, tossing rolls of paper towels at storm victims and complaining that the island’s crisis had “thrown our budget a little out of whack.”