President Biden on Thursday said the federal government is “laser-focused” on the situation in Puerto Rico, where residents are dealing with the fallout from Hurricane Fiona, a major storm that slammed the island almost five years to the day after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on its infrastructure.
Biden attended a briefing with the governor of Puerto Rico, New York officials and the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) while in New York City for the United Nations General Assembly.
Biden earlier Wednesday signed an expedited major disaster declaration, which will authorize federal funding to cover 100 percent of costs on the island for debris removal, search and rescue, power and water restoration and shelter and food for the month of September.
“We’re surging federal resources to Puerto Rico, and we’ll do everything we can to meet the urgent needs you have,” Biden told Gov. Pedro Pierluisi (D). “And we know they’re real, we know they’re significant.”
“To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know: We are with you,” Biden added. “We’re not going to walk away.”
Puerto Rico’s power grid failed and roads and bridges were destroyed after Hurricane Fiona made landfall on the island on Sunday as a Category 4 storm, delivering punishing winds and flooding rains.
Hundreds of thousands of residents were still without power this week and lacked consistent access to clean water. The island’s infrastructure was badly damaged by Hurricane Maria in 2017, and the effects of the latest storm have called into question how the repaired power grid could fail so badly again during Fiona.