- The Washington Times - Friday, September 18, 2020

The Trump administration announced $11.6 billion in aid to Puerto Rico on Friday to help it recover from Hurricane Maria three years ago, as the president’s reelection campaign battles with Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden for Puerto Rican voters in Florida.

It’s the biggest federal emergency aid package in history.

“I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico,” President Trump said at a White House press conference in which he criticized Mr. Biden’s actions regarding the island.

The Federal Emergency Management Administration said its infrastructure grants include $9.6 billion for the Puerto Rico Electrical Power Authority, the territory’s bankrupt utility, to repair the island’s electric grid. There is also $2 billion to rebuild schools damaged in the September 2017 storm.

The president has accused Puerto Rico’s leaders of corruption in the past and expressed hesitancy to provide more federal funding for the island.

But on a campaign swing through Florida this week, Mr. Biden outlined a plan to rebuild Puerto Rico. A majority of people who fled the island after Hurricane Maria resettled in central Florida.

The president said Mr. Biden “devastated the island of Puerto Rico” by voting as a senator in 1996 to eliminate a tax provision that had encouraged pharmaceutical manufacturing on the island.

“This was even before the Obama administration. That was so sad,” Mr. Trump said. “Then Obama came in, and it got worse. For the people of Puerto Rico, they were a disaster for you.”

Asked why the aid is coming three years after Hurricane Maria hit the island, the president blamed Democrats in Congress.

“We’ve been working on it for a long time to get it passed. It’s a big package,” he said.

Tropical Storm Isaias also caused widespread flooding on the island in July.

Mr. Trump won Florida in 2016, but Mr. Biden is leading there narrowly in public polls this year.

Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez said Mr. Trump’s administration “failed Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria made landfall and the people desperately needed help, and throughout the recovery process.”

“Puerto Ricans will not be fooled by his empty promises — the deaths, the suffering, and the struggles Puerto Ricans still face are a constant reminder that Trump talks plenty but does very little,” Mr. Perez said.

• Dave Boyer can be reached at dboyer@washingtontimes.com.

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