POLITICS
08/27/2019 13:49 EDT | Updated 08/30/2019 13:07 EDT

Trump Again Inflates Puerto Rico's Disaster Aid As Another Storm Nears

"Will it ever end?" the president asked as Tropical Storm Dorian, which is expected to turn into a hurricane, approaches the island.

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico ― President Donald Trump again falsely boasted on Tuesday that Congress approved $92 billion in hurricane relief aid to Puerto Rico following devastating hurricanes in 2017.

“Will it ever end?” Trump asked on Twitter while expressing amazement at approaching Tropical Storm Dorian, which is expected to turn into a hurricane by later this week. Trump went on to declare that the money allocated to the island set “an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.’”

Despite this grandiose claim, which Trump has repeated on several occasions, Congress has only allocated $42.7 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico, federal data shows. Of that amount, the island has received less than $14 billion.

Puerto Rico is a sore spot for Trump. He has criticized local government’s management of resources, while island leaders have slammed the president for his handling of the destruction caused by hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017.

Ricardo Arduengo / Reuters
A group of people walk on the beach in the tourist zone of Boqueron as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

Trump reportedly opposed sending financial assistance to the island. According to The Washington Post, he delayed signing a disaster relief bill for months that would benefit multiple U.S. locales recovering from flooding, hurricanes, wildfires and other natural disasters because Puerto Rico was one of the recipients.

Trump has meanwhile dubbed himself as “the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico.”

“They don’t like to give me the credit for it, but we did a great job [in Puerto Rico],” he said in July. “I have many Puerto Rican friends. I have a real understanding of Puerto Rico. I’ve had jobs in Puerto Rico.”

For people on the island, it’s help they want, not political pandering.

Ricardo Arduengo / Reuters
Nearly empty shelves where bottled water is normally displayed, are shown at a grocery store as Tropical Storm Dorian approaches in Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico August 26, 2019. REUTERS/Ricardo Arduengo

By Tuesday afternoon, grocery store aisles in San Juan had been largely depleted of water and other supplies in anticipation of the storm. Many in the city had already headed to their hometowns in anticipation of losing power.

Milagros Figueroa, whose parents live on the first floor of a building that’s missing its second-story roof, expressed concern about rising floodwaters while walking along nearby Caño Martín Peña, a nearly four-mile canal known for its extreme pollution.

She pointed to a puddle of green, tepid water filled with plastic bottles, food wrappers and other litter.

“When it rains, all of this comes up,” Figueroa, 32, said Tuesday afternoon. “There’s children here. And the elderly.”

Alex Kaufman
Milagros Figueroa gestures next to the Caño Martín Peña, a nearly four-mile polluted canal that she said floods during heavy rainfall.

During Hurricane María, Figueroa’s entire home flooded. It took 16 hours of brushing and bucketing bacteria-filled water from the house to get it dry. But other problems lasted — the community spent five months without electricity.

Figueroa said she’s now prepared for what’s to come.

“We got used to being without power,” she said. Over the past six weeks, she and her family stocked up on canned food and water bottles, anticipating that help once again won’t come.

At the offices of ENLACE, a community nonprofit that advocates for the residents of Caño Martín Peña, executive director Lyvia Rodríguez buried her head in her hands when asked about the coming storm.

“Please, God, let there not be a bad storm,” she said. “We’ve had enough.”

This story has been updated with details about the conditions in San Juan and comments from residents ahead of the storm.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.