White House allocates $13 billion to restore Puerto Rico electric grid, schools
Largest disaster aid package in FEMA history, approved 3 years after Hurricane Maria
SAN JUAN — Three years after Hurricane María, the government of Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) agreed on a $13 billion obligation to rebuild the electricity grid and repair educational structures destroyed by the historic storm.
At a press conference in FEMA headquarters, Gov. Wanda Vázquez took the opportunity to thank the FEMA leadership in Puerto Rico and President Donald Trump for the funding obligation.
Earlier, Vázquez tweeted that FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor called her to give her the news that they had approved the multimillion-dollar allocation.
“I just spoke with @FEMA_Pete notified me that we achieved the largest approval in FEMA history of $13 billion to rebuild our electrical and educational system,” the governor tweeted.
The agreement had been expected to be announced last October. It comes after the commonwealth government announced an agreement between LUMA Energy LLC and the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (Prepa) for the management of federal allocations made to Puerto Rico to repair the grid.
While Vázquez made the announcement Friday morning, the island’s Public Private Partnerships Authority reported that the request for qualifications process from companies to partner with Prepa to manage and operate the utility’s power generation is getting a good response but did not specify which companies expressed interest.
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement that the funds were long overdue.
“Long before the hurricanes, Puerto Rico had a crumbling and dirty energy grid. After the storms utterly destroyed the grid, it created an opportunity to rebuild a cleaner, cheaper and more resilient energy system, but the Trump administration dithered and delayed and refused to deliver timely disaster aid for the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
“The move comes as polls for the presidental race show a tight race in Florida between Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden. This aid package could potentially move Puerto Rican voters in the state towards Trump,” Fox News reports.
Some political pundits believe the election could turn in Biden’s favor if he were to lose the Florida vote.
In a White House statement, Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the $9.6 billion to repair and replace transmission and distribution lines, electrical substations, power generation systems, office buildings, and other grid improvements, and the $2 billion grant for the Puerto Rico Department of Education “exceed the total Public Assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy.”
“With the grant awards announced today, the Federal Government will have obligated approximately $26 billion for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Maria,” she added.
FEMA obligations have reached $7.3 billion since Hurricane María struck.