Puerto Rico Will Be Rebuilt, Biden Promises on Visit

FEMA chief acknowledges issues 'in the previous administration'
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 3, 2022 7:30 PM CDT
Puerto Rico Will Be Rebuilt, Biden Promises on Visit
President Biden, with first lady Jill Biden, receives a briefing Monday from Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi on Hurricane Fiona in Ponce.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

President Biden promised to "rebuild it all" while visiting Puerto Rico on Monday, as tens of thousands of people remain without power two weeks after Hurricane Fiona struck and residents worry that Washington's dedication to their recovery could prove fleeting. "I'm committed to this island," he said after receiving a briefing from local officials, acknowledging that Fiona was only the latest in a string of disasters that have pummeled the US territory in recent years. "Puerto Ricans are a strong people," Biden said, per the AP. "But even so, you have had to bear so much, and more than need be, and you haven't gotten the help in a timely way."

The damage from Fiona, only five years after the even more powerful Hurricane Maria struck, will test his administration's ability to help the island of 3.2 million people recover and bolster its defenses. Puerto Rico has a higher poverty rate than any state, and it remains vulnerable to storms that are only becoming more powerful and frequent because of climate change. "What happened with this hurricane is that even though it was Category 1, in terms of water it was like Category 4," Gov. Pedro Pierluisi, told Biden. Fiona made landfall on Sept. 18, knocking out power to the entire island.

Biden announced the administration will provide $60 million through last year's bipartisan infrastructure law to help Puerto Rico shore up levees, strengthen flood walls, and create a new flood warning system so the island will be better prepared for future storms. Government officials have estimated some $3 billion in damages but warn that costs could rise significantly as evaluations continue. Some people in Puerto Rico wondered whether Biden's visit would change anything, as they recalled how President Donald Trump visited after Hurricane Maria in 2017 and tossed rolls of paper towels into a crowd in a display that riled many. "We know that there may have been some issues in the previous administration," said Deanne Criswell, the Federal Emergency Management Agency administrator who joined Biden on his trip. "We are laser-focused on giving them the support they need."

(More President Biden stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.