State Watch

Florida senators press Trump to declare disaster funding for Puerto Rico earthquakes

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Florida’s two GOP senators joined Puerto Rico’s top official in Congress on Tuesday to ask President Trump for federal support following a series of earthquakes on the island.

Sens. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott signed a letter with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón (R) asking Trump to order agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to provide immediate assistance to Puerto Rico.

“The localities that are grappling with the effects of the earth tremors are smaller municipalities that do not have the necessary resources to handle the situation alone, and the Puerto Rico local agencies are taxed to their limits by their fiscal condition and the continuing larger recovery effort,” they wrote.

Puerto Rico was hit Tuesday morning by a 6.4 magnitude earthquake after suffering a series of smaller earthquakes that caused damage and power outages over the weekend.

Tuesday’s earthquake was followed by a series of aftershocks, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The earthquakes come as the island struggles to rebuild its infrastructure and economy after the devastation from Hurricane Maria in September 2017.

The request for federal assistance could touch a nerve with Trump, whose administration has been slow to release the funds appropriated for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction.

More than four months have passed since the Department of Housing and Urban Development was supposed to publish a notice on how it plans to distribute more than $8 billion in disaster relief funds for the island.

President Trump has called the island “one of the most corrupt places on Earth.”

For the three Republican lawmakers who signed Tuesday’s letter, Puerto Rico disaster recovery is a priority, with the two senators looking to deliver their state for Trump in November. Florida has the largest Puerto Rican diaspora in the country, at more than 1.2 million residents.

González is up for reelection this year amid political turbulence that has created uncertainty for incumbents.

Puerto Rico Gov. Wanda Vázquez signed an emergency declaration Tuesday. She said in a statement that she has spoken to several members of Congress and that federal agencies are ready to assist the U.S. territory.

The island’s Financial Oversight and Management Board — a congressionally mandated office that oversees Puerto Rico’s finances — announced Tuesday it had authorized the disbursement of $260 million for emergency funds related to the earthquakes.

Tags Donald Trump Earthquake federal assistance FEMA Florida hurricane Marco Rubio Puerto Rico U.S. Army Corps of Engineers
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