The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced Tuesday it will “officially shut off” food and water aid to Puerto Ricans, even though 20 percent of the island is still without power four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the American territory.
“The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal,” FEMA Puerto Rico director Alejandro De La Campa told NPR.
Not all of Puerto Rico’s government officials agreed with FEMA’s decision.
Morovis Mayor Carmen Maldonado told NPR that 80 percent of her constituents are still without power and that most residents can’t afford the cost of a generator.
“There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore, because they’ve got nearly 100 percent of their energy and water back,” she said. “Ours is not so lucky.”
“This is all something that FEMA should contemplate before eliminating its delivery of these supplies,” the mayor added.
“If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy,” De La Campa said. “It is affecting the economy of Puerto Rico. So we need to create a balance. With the financial assistance we’re providing to families and the municipalities, they’re able to go back to the normal economy.”
Puerto Rico’s government claims that power has been restored to about 80 percent of the island.
FEMA’s public affairs director William Booher clarified to The Hill that the agency would continue to assist volunteer agencies and nonprofits with relief efforts in rural areas of Puerto Rico.
“FEMA will continue to support any documented needs and will provide supplies to volunteer agencies and other private nonprofit organizations who are working with households in rural, outlying areas to address ongoing disaster-related needs as power and water is gradually restored,” Booher said.
“The commercial supply chain for food and water is re-established and private suppliers are sufficiently available that FEMA provided commodities are no longer needed for emergency operations.”
FEMA has provided more than 30 million gallons of drinking water and 60 million meals to its inhabitants.