Pence to visit Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands next week

Pence to visit Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands next week
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Vice President Pence announced on Friday he would visit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands next week as residents struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria, according to his deputy chief of staff and communications director.  

News of Pence's visit comes as the Trump administration faces fierce criticism for its response to Maria, which left Puerto Ricans virtually without power and in many cases without clean water. 

Puerto Ricans have struggled to rebuild and obtain aid in the aftermath of the storm.

President Trump plans to visit Puerto Rico himself on Tuesday.

Pence touted the White House's efforts on Thursday during an address in Detroit.

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"Our hearts, our support and our prayers are with our fellow Americans struggling to rebuild their lives in the wake of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. From the outset of this storm, President Trump directed the full resources of the federal government to support rescue and recovery efforts. I'm proud to say our administration has delivered over 4.5 million meals, 4.6 liters of water and many millions more are on the way," he said. 

The president on Friday attempted to explain why aid has been impeded on the island, blaming geography and the island's large debt. 

"This is an island, surrounded by water. Big water. Ocean water,” Trump said during a speech in Washington on his tax plan.

"Ultimately the government of Puerto Rico will have to work with us to determine how this massive rebuilding effort … will be funded," he continued. "And what we will do with the tremendous amount of existing debt already on the island.

Trump also praised U.S. relief efforts, saying Friday they would not stop until residents are safe.

"We will not rest, however, until the people of Puerto Rico are safe," adding "These are great people. We want them to be safe and sound and secure and we will be there every day until that happens."