FEMA To Cease Relief Efforts in Puerto Rico; Recovery Still Far From Over

Four months after Puerto Rico was devastated by a pair of hurricanes, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said it will stop distributing food and water on the island beginning Wednesday (1/31). 

According to the Chicago Tribune, FEMA said it will turn over all remaining supplies on the island to the Puerto Rican government and associated nonprofits as part of a transition from emergency response to recovery.

Such an announcement, made in the wake of FEMA stating that businesses, hospitals, and banks are sufficiently stocked, has caused much chagrin among the Puerto Rican people. Many parts of the island still lack the ability to allocate resources, and even power still alludes more rural parts of the island. Luis Vega Ramos, a member of the Puerto Rico House of Representatives, said many rural communities still lack basic necessities.

 The government of Puerto Rico said it was not forewarned about the change. 

"We were not informed that supplies would stop arriving, nor did the Government of Puerto Rico agree with this action," said Héctor Pesquera, state coordinating officer for the Puerto Rican government, in a statement. "You're still in desperate need in of humanitarian aid. And not to see this from FEMA, it is at best an act of neglect, and at worst it comes creepingly close to criminal negligence," he said.

Puerto Rico was devastated when Hurricane Maria struck in September, just a couple of weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Irma. Officials condemned the Trump administration for what they called a slow and inadequate aid response in the immediate aftermath, and President Donald Trump drew widespread condemnation when he tweeted that the administration could not keep FEMA employees and first responders on the U.S. territory "forever."

FEMA stated it will  support regions that have needs and nonprofits "who are working with households in rural, outlying areas to address ongoing disaster-related needs as power and water is gradually restored."

Amanda Pope