Puerto Rican officials have for months denounced the federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria, urging for more attention and action to help the island’s hard-pressed storm survivors. This week, island leaders declared a rare victory when Senate leaders folded disaster relief funding into a two-year budget deal to avert a government shutdown.
Puerto Rico, along with the United States Virgin Islands, certainly has reason to cheer: The deal includes $4.8 billion to replenish dwindling Medicaid funds, $2 billion to restore the shredded power grid and $9 billion for housing and urban development projects.
But the funding falls tens of billions of dollars short of what Puerto Rico says it needs to come back from the devastating storm. In November, Puerto Rico estimated it would need $94.4 billion to rebuild the island after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and make its infrastructure more resilient to future natural disasters.
Puerto Rico wanted $17 billion for the power grid alone — $15 billion more than what the Senate set aside. By comparison, Florida’s citrus industry is receiving $2.3 billion to recover from Hurricane Irma.
“All of this money, it’s a starting point to initiate recovery and reconstruction,” said Carlos Mercader, the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington. “There’s still a lot of work to do with Congress and the administration.”
In September, following Hurricanes Harvey and…