In a meeting with Republican lawmakers, President Donald Trump reportedly said he believes Puerto Rico has received too much disaster relief funding in the wake of Hurricane Maria, compared to mainland states like Florida and Texas.
Florida Senator Marco Rubio said Trump told the group that aid for the island “is way out of proportion to what Texas and Florida and others have gotten,” according to The Guardian.
Rubio said while the president supports sending $600 million to boost Puerto Rico’s food stamp program, which have endured steep cuts as funds began running out this month, Trump is not on board with additional aid to rebuild the island’s antiquated waters systems in order to ensure they can withstand future storms.
Trump’s hardened position on further aid will set him up for a battle with House Democrats, The Guardian noted, who “insist that a $13bn to $14bn disaster aid package that’s a top priority for southern Republicans won’t advance without further aid for the island.”
Lawmakers from Florida, Georgia and North Carolina — all hit hard by Hurricanes Michael and Florence last year — are hoping to pass a disaster relief package sooner than later.
Democrats are also keen on passing such a package, but not without adequate funding for Puerto Rico.
“Nearly 3,000 American lives were lost in the historic storms that devastated Puerto Rico and destroyed its infrastructure, and the island is still struggling to recover,” House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) said in a joint statement with Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT).
Trump has consistently drawn criticism over his statements regarding Puerto Rico, from claiming his administration’s handling of the disaster was an “incredible, unsung success” to slow-walking aide to criticizing the island’s leadership and economic difficulties.