WASHINGTON – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello asked the White House and the US Congress on Monday for more than $94 billion in aid to “repair and rebuild” the island after the devastating passages of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
“The number is large because it’s a big catastrophe, it’s possibly the biggest in Puerto Rico’s history, the entire island was devastated,” said Rossello in response to a question from EFE at a press conference at the National Governors Association headquarters in Washington.
“The number is high but if we compare it to the amount Texas requested (after Hurricane Harvey) it’s a similar order of magnitude, although the damage from this storm has been much greater. Although the number is large, it’s still a conservative number,” the governor added, going on to say that the damage report he sent to the White House and Congress on Monday is “preliminary.”
Rossello attached a letter to the island’s federal aid request to President Donald Trump, saying that “The scale and scope of the catastrophe in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria knows no historic precedent.”
“The devastation throughout the Island represents an extraordinary challenge for American citizens residing in Puerto Rico and for the federal Government. A challenge that I am sure we can overcome because the United States is the undisputed world leader in the response to disasters and because the determination of the people of Puerto Rico is powerful,” he said.
“This is a transformative moment in the history of Puerto Rico,” Rossello wrote in the letter, adding that “We recognize that your leadership, along with that of leaders from both parties, will be essential to our recovery, and the future economic and fiscal health of the island.”
The $94 billion Puerto Rico is requesting from the US government is to be used to rebuild housing, the electric grid and other infrastructure and to help the island’s agriculture, social services, health services and educational system recover, Rossello said.
The document Rossello sent to the White House and Congress was prepared by various Puerto Rican government agencies, in collaboration with the Ford Foundation, the state of New York and several universities.
He said that “historically” Puerto Ricans have been treated worse than other US citizens in various areas, and he emphasized that he is a firm defender of the island becoming a full-fledged US state – rather than remaining a commonwealth with no vote in Congress and where residents of the island may not vote in US elections. He also demanded that, as long as the island is not a state, Puerto Ricans should nevertheless be treated “equally” with other US citizens.