A false report claiming that Puerto Ricans and other Americans evacuating the island after the devastation of Hurricane Maria would have to pay for their rescue — and surrender their passport in the meantime — caused some anger online, and forced the State Department to issue a clarification.
On Thursday morning, MarketWatch reported that a State Department policy requires U.S. citizens to sign a promissory note for costs of an evacuation. But that rule only applies to U.S. citizens based internationally. Because Puerto Rico is U.S. territory, evacuations are not under the State Department's jurisdiction.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert issued a statement in response to the report.
— Heather Nauert (@statedeptspox) September 28, 2017
There is some truth to MarketWatch's report: American citizens in Caribbean islands not part of the U.S. — such as St. Martin and Dominica — would have to sign promissory notes and repay the costs of their evacuation..
Yes, at the time of evacuation, evacuees sign a promissory note to repay the loan to the USG.
— Travel - State Dept (@TravelGov) September 25, 2017
In Puerto Rico, the Trump administration's response to the disaster has come under heavy criticism. Notable celebrities such as Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and music artist Pitbull used their private planes to the island to assist in evacuation efforts. President Donald Trump did not use his.
On Thursday, the U.S. Army announced it will be taking over the recovery operations, the Daily Beast reported. The Army will oversee approximately 2,600 U.S. military personnel and guard members already on the island. More manpower will be needed, however.
Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who led the military's disaster efforts during Hurricane Katrina, told NPR that the operation in Puerto Rico will require more than 20,000 troops.