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President Trump Sends Nearly $13 Billion In Aid To Puerto Rico Three Years After Hurricane Maria

SAN JUAN — FEMA is sending almost $13 billion to Puerto Rico, directed at the territory’s energy and education systems, to help it recover from 2017’s devastating Hurricane Maria, the White House said.

The “federal share” of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s grants to the territory totals $11.6 billion, with most money, $9.6 billion, going to the battered power authority, according to a White House announcement, which did not provide details on the remaining funds or explain why they were not part of the federal share.

President Trump Sends Nearly  Billion In Aid To Puerto Rico Three Years After Hurricane Maria
FILE – In this Sept. 26, 2017 file photo, Jonathan Aponte walks with a gas can up the road to his home in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in Yabucoa, Puerto Rico, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017. Puerto Rico is getting much of the money it needs to rebuild its power grid three years after it was wiped out by Hurricane Maria, the island territory’s governor and the White House said Friday. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert)

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez Garced said in a statement the full FEMA package is $12.8 billion, with $10.5 billion for power.

The White House said the aid exceeds the total public assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy, the destructive 2005 storms. According to the National Hurricane Center, Maria is the third costliest hurricane in U.S. history behind Katrina and 2017’s Hurricane Harvey.

Top Democrats said President Donald Trump had delayed and withheld the aid for the last three years, stunting Puerto Rico’s ability to rebuild from the storm that killed more than 2,500 people and left the island without power for weeks. Representative Nydia Velazquez said he was “blatantly playing politics” by announcing the package 46 days before the Nov. 3 election, where he is in a tight race against Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump and Biden have each been working to woo Hispanic voters. Their support is considered critical in the perennial swing state of Florida, where many Puerto Ricans relocated after Maria.

President Trump Sends Nearly  Billion In Aid To Puerto Rico Three Years After Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico was already struggling financially before Maria struck, and filed a form of municipal bankruptcy in 2017 to restructure about $120 billion of debt and obligations. A large portion of its financial distress was linked to the power utility.

Since then, it has weathered more hurricanes, earthquakes, the coronavirus pandemic and political upheaval, as well as increased federal scrutiny into its use of U.S. aid.


Reporting by Lisa Lambert; Additional reporting by Karen Pierog and Makini Brice; Editing by Susan Heavey, Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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Trump’s ‘Goebbels’ Arrested By Feds In NYC For ‘We Build The Wall’ Internet Scam

NEW YORK — Former White House adviser Steve Bannon has been arrested on charges that he and three others bilked donors in an online fundraising scheme called: “We Build The Wall.”

The charges were contained in an indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Thursday.

Federal prosecutors alleged that Bannon and three others “orchestrated a scheme to defraud hundreds of thousands of donors” in connection with an online crowd-funding campaign that raised more than $25 million to build a wall along the southern border of the United States.

A phone at the office of Bannon’s lawyer went unanswered on Thursday morning. A spokeswoman for Bannon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

According to the indictment, Bannon promised that 100 per cent of the donated money would be used for the project, but the defendants collectively used hundreds of thousands of dollars in a manner inconsistent with the organisation’s public representations.

The indictment said they faked invoices and sham “vendor” arrangements, among other ways, to hide what was really happening.

Before he was tapped to lead Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign in its critical final months, Bannon led the conservative Breitbart News. After Trump was elected, he moved on to a top White House strategy post.

The blunt-spoken, combative Bannon was the voice of a nationalistic, outsider conservatism, and he pushed Trump to follow through on some of his most contentious campaign promises, including his travel ban for some foreigners and his decision to pull out of the Paris climate change agreement.

But Bannon also clashed with other top advisers, and his high profile sometimes irked Trump. He was pushed out in August 2017.