White House announces $3.7bn aid grant for Puerto Rico

Trump administration says grant is meant to help rebuild infrastructure on US territory hard hit by natural disasters.

President Donald Trump arrives in the early morning hours of Tuesday, January 5, 2021, at the White House after returning from a rally in Dalton, Georgia [Andrew Harnik/AP Photo]

The Trump administration announced Tuesday that it will award a $3.7bn grant to help Puerto Rico rebuild water and wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations and reservoirs damaged by Hurricane Maria more than three years ago.

The funds will be awarded by the Federal Emergency Management Administration to help rebuild Puerto Rico’s water and wastewater treatment plants, pumping stations, dams and reservoirs, the White House said on Tuesday.

The bankrupt US territory, a Caribbean island of 3.2 million people, was hit by severe earthquakes a year ago while struggling to recover from devastating 2017 hurricanes.

The administration has been slow to release $44bn in money that was approved for Puerto Rico following the devastating hurricane.

But the White House said that once the water funding is allocated, the Trump administration will have obligated more than $40bn to the island’s recovery.

Trump has spent much of his administration blasting Puerto Rican officials as corrupt and inept, and he had opposed spending federal dollars to rebuild a power grid and other infrastructure that was wiped out by Maria in September 2017.

Nearly three years after Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico, tens of thousands of homes remain badly damaged [File: Carlos Giusti/AP Photo]

But in September, he set aside his past bitter treatment of the island and its leaders, with his administration approving a $13bn infusion that mostly went to rebuild an electrical grid that was wiped out by the storm and resulted in the longest blackout in US history.

That announcement came as Trump courted voters from Puerto Rico, most notably in the swing state of Florida.

The grant announced Tuesday covers 90 percent of the estimated costs of the water and wastewater improvement projects.

Even now, three years after the storm, thousands of homes are still damaged in Puerto Rico. The island has also been hit by a series of damaging earthquakes and remains mired in a deep economic crisis, made worse by the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: News Agencies