Trump says ‘big decisions’ to be made on rebuilding costs for Puerto Rico

Posted on: September 29th, 2017 by ABC News No Comments

Hector Retamal/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — President Trump said “big decisions” will need to be made about the costs of rebuilding hurricane-battered Puerto Rico.

“The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding,” Trump tweeted Friday morning.

Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello just stated: “The Administration and the President, every time we’ve spoken, they’ve delivered……

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2017

…The fact is that Puerto Rico has been destroyed by two hurricanes. Big decisions will have to be made as to the cost of its rebuilding!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 29, 2017

The president also touted his administration’s recovery and aid efforts in the U.S. territory since Hurricane Maria roared ashore there last week, relaying praise that he said he’d received from the island’s governor.

In an interview on CNN on Friday morning, the president’s homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said Trump’s tweets were “a thousand percent right” that the federal government will have to look at how to handle rebuilding costs, considering that the territory has $72 billion in debt.

“With them being in debt, they don’t have enough ready liquid cash to pay their normal share,” Bossert said. “What we’ll do — and the president has already done it – is give a 180-day cost-share adjustment, and the federal government is making sure lives are protected. We’ll worry about the big decisions later; that’s the president’s point.”

Bossert added, “The president is already doing what it takes. What he’s doing is what every good leader does, is looking on the horizon for decisions that will come over the next three, four weeks and the next three, four months.”

Maria made landfall as a major Category 4 hurricane in Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, killing at least 16 people, knocking out power and devastating the island’s agriculture. Residents at the time were still recovering from the powerful Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier that had unleashed heavy rain and high winds.

Trump announced Tuesday that he will make his first visit to Puerto Rico next week after critics — both Democrats and Republicans — accused his administration of a lackluster response to the catastrophic damage left by Maria on the island.

In defending the federal response, administration officials told reporters Thursday that food, water and other necessary supplies have already been delivered to the U.S. territory.

Elaine Duke, acting secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Secretary, said the administration is working hard to get supplies where they are needed on the island. “We are using air support when we can’t get through. We are cleaning the roads regularly. We have expanded greatly; probably 90 percent of the island is accessible now.”
San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz on CNN Friday morning pushed back against Duke’s positive assessment, calling it “irresponsible.”

“Maybe from where she’s standing, it’s a good news story. When you are drinking from a creek, it’s not a good news story. When you don’t have food for a baby, it’s not a good news story,” Cruz said. “I’m sorry, but that really upsets me and frustrates me.”

“I would ask her to come down here and visit the towns and then make a statement like that — which, frankly, it’s an irresponsible statement,” Cruz added.

The mayor said she had a “message” for Trump to “step up” relief efforts for the “entire island of Puerto Rico,” not just the capital of San Juan.

“This is a message for President Trump: Thank you for calling San Juan yesterday and listening for our mayday call. There are 77 other towns that are waiting anxiously and will be very grateful to you and to the American people if you continue to step up to the moral imperative that you have taken on all over the world to help those in need. So help us,” Cruz said.

Meanwhile, more than 9,000 cargo containers filled with necessary supplies have arrived at a port in San Juan but have yet to be distributed to those in need.

“The whole supply chain of distribution has been interrupted,” Jose Ayala, vice president of Crowley Puerto Rico Services, told ABC News. “We need to restore the electricity power, we need to restore our roads, we need to restore communications, we need to start moving the diesel around the island.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency told ABC News that any aid it has delivered to Puerto Rico has been immediately distributed.

“There’s not a single trailer from FEMA or from response operations that are being held,” said Alex de la Campa, the agency’s Caribbean-area division director.

At a press conference Friday morning, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello announced that his government will buy cargo containers from private companies, if necessary, to make sure goods are distributed. He said he will not allow food and water to remain stuck at ports due to a “lack of execution.”

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