President Joe Biden pledged $60 million to Puerto Rico to “better prepare for future storms” on Monday, and traveled to the city of Ponce to see the damages caused by Hurricane Fiona.
Fiona struck Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, causing 13 confirmed deaths and 12 still under investigation, Puerto Rico’s Department of Health said. The storm knocked out 100% of the island’s power, causing over 3 million people to be in the dark. Thousands also lost access to clean water.
“I’m heading to Puerto Rico because they haven’t been taken very good care of. They’ve been trying like hell to catch up from the last hurricane. I want to see the state of affairs today and make sure we push everything we can,” Biden said before boarding Air Force One on Monday morning.
Speaking on the island, he said, “We came here in person to show that we’re with you, a man all of America is with you as you receive and recover and rebuild.”
“I was sort of raised in the Puerto Rican community at home politically,” he added, seemingly referring to the large Puerto Rican population in Delaware.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell said in a press briefing that she does “not have an estimate” for when 100% of Puerto Ricans get access to water and electricity, but that they “are working into some of the hardest-hit areas.” She added that she don’t have the total estimates for how much funding recovering from Fiona is going to take.
I said we’d be with the people of Puerto Rico for as long as it took. I meant it.
In the wake of Hurricane Fiona, I’m announcing a $60 million investment to shore up levees and flood walls, and create a new flood warning system to help residents better prepare for future storms.
— President Biden (@POTUS) October 3, 2022
Governor of Puerto Rico, Pedro Pierluisi, said he requested Biden “to amend the major disaster declaration to provide an additional period a period of 180 days of 100% funding for debris removal emergency protective measures and direct federal assistance.”
Hurricane Ian struck the coast of Florida days after Fiona ravaged through Puerto Rico, causing a death toll of 87 people, with search and rescue missions still ongoing.
Biden is heading to Florida on Wednesday in response to Hurricane Ian, but it is not clear if he will meet with Republican Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in person, after having previously spoken to the governor repeatedly on the phone.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the president and Florida governor see dealing with Hurricane Ian “as one team,” and has repeatedly stated that the disaster response is not political.