- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 7, 2018

With hurricane season now officially underway, many worry that Puerto Rico, still reeling from two massive storms last fall, is ill-prepared for the coming months.

The Army Corps of Engineers was assigned to assist the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) rebuild the electrical grid in October, a month after the U.S. island territory was ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

Though reconstruction has been going on for nearly 10 months, the grid is still not complete.

As of Thursday, the CEO of PREPA estimated that it would take two months to restore power to the remaining 9,262 Puerto Ricans without electricity, CBS News’ David Begnaud reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers’ mission was scheduled to end in May, but some aspects of the mission were extended. In a press release, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) explained that the extension applied to “the lease, generation, and maintenance” of generators across the islands, but that the PREPA would manage the reconstruction.

FEMA also approved an additional $194 million in assistance grants to be distributed among several agencies and municipalities within Puerto Rico. Lenisha Smith, a spokesperson for the agency, told the Washington Times that FEMA is committed to continuing their support for the reconstruction effort.

“FEMA’s ability to provide support in disasters builds on, and is subject to, the capacity of the state, territorial, tribal & local governments. FEMA was in Puerto Rico before Hurricane Irma/Maria ever struck, and we will be there for years to come, supporting the government of Puerto Rico and the Governor’s recovery goals,” she said.

PREPA has been accused of mismanagement in the past. The agency was $9 billion in debt even before the hurricanes hit in September, and the electrical grid it oversaw was outdated.

President Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, first lady Melania Trump and other members of the administration visited FEMA headquarters this week to discuss the upcoming storm season.

Some have been critical of the president’s lack of attention to the situation in Puerto Rico.

Carmen Yulín Cruz, the mayor of San Juan, scoffed at White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ statement that aid has been provided to Puerto Rico at “historic proportions.”

“It’s an historic failure. That’s what it is,” Ms. Cruz said in an interview with MSNBC.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, the ranking Democrat on the House Small Business Committee, criticized Mr. Trump:


• Gabriella Muñoz can be reached at gmunoz@washingtontimes.com.

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