Trump to Puerto Rico: You don't need our help

The suffering commonwealth was denied a loan of more than $4 billion by FEMA because of the cash they already have

By Matthew Rozsa

Staff Writer

Published January 19, 2018 1:33PM (EST)

A man walks past a house laying in flood water in Catano town, in Juana Matos, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (Getty/Hector Retamal)
A man walks past a house laying in flood water in Catano town, in Juana Matos, Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria (Getty/Hector Retamal)

President Donald Trump's administration may deny Puerto Rico access to a loan the country desperately needs because they're not quite poor enough.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency informed Puerto Rico on Jan. 9 that it might not receive federal community disaster loans that it had been expecting on the grounds that it has too much case, according to Bloomberg. As of Dec. 29, Puerto Rico's government had $1.7 billion available that FEMA claimed it could use to help the island's residents months after Hurricane Maria left millions of people without electricity, good roads and other forms of vital infrastructure.

"Under this cash balance policy, funds will be provided through the CDL program when the commonwealth’s central cash balance decreases to a certain level," FEMA officials explained in their letter to Gerardo Portela, executive director of Puerto Rico’s Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority.

The total damage suffered by the island as a result of Hurricane Maria is believed to amount to as much as $100 billion. The loan itself was only $4.9 billion out of a bill passed in October included a total of $36.5 billion of disaster aid for areas affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires, according to CNN. A small sample on what life on the island is like: This week, a school at a school had its light turned on for the first time in 112 days.

The Trump administration has faced harsh criticisms for not doing enough to help Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria, with Trump himself even complaining on Twitter in October that "we cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"

Trump's insensitivity toward Puerto Rico has been part of a larger history of discrimination toward residents of the island in the United States.

"This idea that seeing Puerto Ricans as, I mean associating Americans with whiteness and Puerto Ricans with non-whiteness. I mean, a big proportion of Puerto Ricans are white, meaning of European origins, but that's not the perception, right?" Jose Moya, a professor of history at Barnard College, told Salon in October. "I mean honestly, also, Puerto Ricans feel American but also feel Puerto Rican. They have a lot of loyalty to their country, their island, their language. That is seen as 'therefore they're not fully Americans.'"

By Matthew Rozsa

Matthew Rozsa is a staff writer at Salon. He received a Master's Degree in History from Rutgers-Newark in 2012 and was awarded a science journalism fellowship from the Metcalf Institute in 2022.

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Donald Trump Fema Hurricane Maria Puerto Rico