The Trump administration is restricting lawmakers from traveling to hurricane-hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in military aircraft to help prioritize recovery efforts, according to a report in The Washington Post.
A congressional aide told the paper the administration made clear they needed “resources for rescue and recovery, thus member travel will be restricted.”
The White House and Pentagon began denying permission to use military aircraft on Monday night after several lawmakers made plans to visit the islands.
Hurricane Maria battered Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, including the islands' ports, making it difficult to bring aid to residents. It was the second major storm to hit Puerto Rico in weeks, following Hurricane Irma.
Resident Puerto Rico Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón was the only lawmaker on the island during the hurricane. She praised the close coordination between the federal government and island authorities.
"We had never seen this sort of communication between federal agencies and the agencies of Puerto Rico," González-Colón told The Hill Tuesday.
González-Colón said distributing aid remains a major challenge because the island's infrastructure is decimated.
"[Air traffic] communications aren't operating at their maximum capacity, you still have five ports that haven't opened, so the level of devastation is dramatic," she said.
President Trump has announced he will visit Puerto Rico on Tuesday to meet with officials and survey storm damage.
But the administration is facing criticism from some who say it needs to do more to ramp up assistance.
Maria has knocked out much of the island's electric grid and left as much as 40 percent of the island's 3.5 million residents without access to clean drinking water.
Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Brock Long is among the U.S. officials on the ground in Puerto Rico.
He defended the administration's response at a press conference Tuesday and noted that the island presents unique challenges. Only one airport in San Juan is currently operational.