A group of GOP lawmakers is raising concerns that the Hurricane Maria relief efforts in Puerto Rican territory are a poor fit for the territory.
On Wednesday, Senate Republican leaders held a hearing to discuss hurricane relief efforts, and Republican Sen. David Vitter of Louisiana said he was concerned that Puerto Rico may not have the resources it needs to handle the crisis.
“I would just like to emphasize that Puerto Rican officials have not been able to get the resources that they need to be able to respond to a catastrophic hurricane,” Vitter said.
“And if the relief efforts aren’t going to work for them, then that’s a real problem.”
Vitter was responding to a question about whether the relief effort could have a positive impact on the territory, which is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20.
He said the Puerto Rican government needs to get on top of the crisis, but that it could take some time.
“It’s a long time to get ready for a catastrophic event,” he said.
“We’ve got a huge economic crisis in Puerto Ricos country.
It’s a time of economic pain and suffering.
We’re going to need all of our resources to respond.
And then you need to get all the money you need from Congress and the president.”
The House Appropriations Committee is expected to vote on legislation on Wednesday that would help Puerto Rico deal with the crisis in the wake of Maria, and the House GOP caucus is expected again to approve the bill on Thursday.
But Vitter told Politico that the relief aid is not likely to make Puerto Rico a “model for how to respond” to a hurricane.
“The Puerto Rican disaster relief effort in Puerto is not a model for how we should respond to the next major disaster,” he added.
“I don’t know if that’s true, but I don’t believe it.”
The Trump administration has struggled to get Puerto Rico and the U.S. territory of St. Martin to agree on the timing and funding for the relief operations, with lawmakers and local officials saying the island will need up to a year to reach that goal.
“Puerto Rico is already facing the very real and catastrophic consequences of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said in a statement on Thursday morning.
“While the administration has been steadfast in our commitment to the people of Puerto Rico, I will not sit by as the island faces the consequences of an unexpected natural disaster.”