President Trump asked his top advisers in a February 22 Oval Office meeting to find a way to limit badly-needed hurricane relief funds for Puerto Rico because too much money had gone to the territory already and should instead go to the mainland, senior administration officials told the Washington Post.
“He doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island,” said a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity
The official said that Trump wants current funds to be used only to help fortify the electric grid.
The Post reports that Trump has continued to ask aides how much money the island will get.
Axios’ Jonathan Swan reported in November that the president has privately claimed, without evidence, that the island’s government is using federal disaster relief money to pay off debt.
At least a third of Puerto Ricans rely heavily on food stamps following Hurricane Maria in 2017, but the local government has been cutting the program as it waits for the federal government to send the U.S. territory billions in hurricane relief, per the Post.
The cuts have forced the staff at the Casa Ismael clinic for HIV-positive men with severe health complications to leave patients sitting in soiled diapers to save money.
But last week, clinic administrator Myrna Izquierdo told the nurses that had to stop. To save money, the nonprofit clinic, which relies on its patients’ food-stamp money for funding, will ask patients to sit in diapers in which they have repeatedly urinated, sometimes for hours.
The Casa Ismael clinic is short on funds in part because of cuts in food stamps that hit about 1.3 million residents of Puerto Rico this month — a new crisis for an island still struggling from the effects of Hurricane Maria in September 2017.
“We just don’t have the money right now,” Izquierdo, 56, said in an interview in the clinic’s sparse first-floor office, where a chunk of ceiling tiles remains missing since the hurricane. Izquierdo pulled out a chart with each patient’s name, annotated with the cost of his adult diapers for the month. “It’s very hard. It is so unfair. That cut is going to kill us.”
In January, House Democrats approved $600 million in additional food-stamp funding to finance the program until the fall, but the bill stalled in the Senate after the Trump administration released a letter calling the additional food-stamp aid “excessive and unnecessary.”
Puerto Rico’s government began making cuts to food-stamp beneficiaries by an average of 25 percent during the first week of March. By March 12, more than 670,000 people had received reduced monthly food-stamp payments, reports the Post.