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A Day After Trump Voices Support, Puerto Rico Will Lose Emergency FEMA Aid

January 31, 2018, 12:19 PM UTC

President Donald Trump painted a picture of progress, success, and overcoming hardship in his State of the Union address Tuesday night.

He pointed to the challenges the American people have faced over the course of the last year, including enduring “floods and fire and storms.” He showed compassion for those still recovering in “Texas, Florida, Louisiana, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, California, and everywhere else,” saying that “we are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together.”

Read: Trump Took Credit for the ‘Lowest Rate Ever Recorded’ of African-American Unemployment. The Reality Is More Complex

But current American policies aren’t necessarily supporting that pledge. On Tuesday, FEMA made a surprise announcement that it would cease emergency operations in Puerto Rico starting Wednesday—including the distribution of food and potable water.

In the four months since the hurricane, FEMA has provided more than 30 million gallons of potable water and close to 60 million meals. Its remaining supplies will be handed to the Puerto Rican government for distribution. But according to the Puerto Rico Public Safety Secretary Héctor Pesquera, no one informed the government that the supplies would be cut off, “nor did the government of Puerto Rico authorize this action.”

Read: Puerto Rico Plans to Privatize Its Devastated Power Utility

As this happens, many Puerto Ricans remain without electricity, meaning they are unable to store their own food at home, and a large portion of the population also doesn’t have access to running water, notes NPR. FEMA, for its part, says its own data suggests that only 1% of Puerto Ricans are still in need of emergency food and water, a small enough number for the government to handle. The larger percentage that remains without electricity or running water does not fall under FEMA’s “emergency” category, and therefore is outside of its purview.

After Trump’s State of the Union address, San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told the New York Post that Puerto Rico isn’t “even on [Trump’s] radar,” claiming that Trump “truly does not care.” She took issue with the fact that FEMA “proclaimed ‘mission accomplished’ when 35% of our population doesn’t have electricity, our children are going to school part time, and half a million homes need to be completely redone.”