Rosselló seeks 'equal treatment,' Trump gives recovery efforts a '10'

By Danielle Haynes  |  Oct. 19, 2017 at 3:47 PM
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Oct. 19 (UPI) -- Puerto Rican Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, in Washington to meet with lawmakers Thursday, said the island needs "equal treatment" in hurricane recovery efforts.

He met Thursday morning with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., one month after the Category 4 Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.

"What we're searching for is the best resources for our people so that we can get out of the emergency so that we can stabilize and rebuild again," Rosselló said while standing next to Rubio on Capitol Hill.

Maria devastated Puerto Rico weeks after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma did damage to Texas, Florida and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The federal government faced criticism -- including a fiery speech by San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz leveled directly at President Donald Trump -- that its response in Puerto Rico was slower after Hurricane Maria than it had been in the wake of the other storms. Trump blamed the slow recovery on the logistics of sending aid to Puerto Rico, an island, and on the territory's existing infrastructure and financial problems.

"We really want to take all of the big picture into consideration, recognizing that we're in this together," Rosselló said. "We need equal treatment, we need all the resources we can get."

The governor met later with Trump in the Oval Office. Asked how he would grade the federal government's response in Puerto Rico, the president said, "I give ourselves a 10."

"We have provided so much, so fast," he added.

Rosselló told the president that "you responded immediately, sir."

Rosselló said he planned to encourage Congress to pass a nearly $5 billion funding package, a loan Trump requested for the financially burdened government. The Senate also is considering a $36.5 billion general disaster relief package, passed by the House last week, that includes relief aid for Puerto Rico.

"Time is of the essence and we need quick action," Rosselló said in an NBC News report Wednesday.

The governor said he hopes to persuade federal lawmakers that the island, a U.S. territory, has the ability to manage recovery and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Maria.

As of Wednesday, about 80 percent of Puerto Ricans -- roughly 3 million -- were still without power and one-third of homes don't have reliable drinking water.

On Tuesday, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said 1,700 personnel were in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, in addition to 20,000 other federal workers.

In Washington Wednesday, demonstrators marched from Capitol Hill to FEMA headquarters to demand a bigger response from the government on hurricane relief for Puerto Rico -- as well as other U.S. locations hit by Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., told the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, "we have not forgotten you.

"You are our brothers and sisters. You are our fellow U.S. citizens. And you are part of our hearts."

Some demonstrators at the rally criticized Trump, saying his reaction to Puerto Rico's plight wasn't on par with how he handled other recent disasters.

"With Puerto Rico, he didn't even try," Melissa Mark-Viverito, speaker of the New York City Council, told The Washington Post. "He's shown a real disrespect for the people of Puerto Rico. It's like he is kicking us while we are down."

The president, who's visited the island, has voiced consistent support for the territory since the disaster -- but he's also taken some criticism for remarking about Puerto Rico's economic situation.

"The wonderful people of Puerto Rico, with their unmatched spirit, know how bad things were before the H's. I will always be with them!" Trump said in a tweet last week.

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