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“I’ve authorized 100% — 100% federal funding for debris removal, search and rescue, water restoration and shelter and food for the whole month,” Biden said. “To the people of Puerto Rico who are still hurting from Hurricane Maria five years later, they should know that we are with you. We’re not going to walk away. I mean it.”
Hurricane Fiona caused catastrophic damage across Puerto Rico, leaving more than 1.4 million people without power in the immediate aftermath. The storm, which dropped up to 30 inches of rain in some areas, cut electricity and access to running water for most of the island.
Biden made the announcement at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Region 2 headquarters at the One World Trade Center in New York City.
Biden on Wednesday approved a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico. The new approval, up from an emergency declaration he approved Sunday before the hurricane made landfall, allows FEMA to give direct payments to those affected for temporary housing and home repairs. Under the declaration, FEMA can also give low-cost loans.
FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell traveled to the island on Tuesday to assess damage. She sat beside Biden at the briefing in New York.
“We’re laser focused on what’s happened to people in Puerto Rico again. We’re talking almost to the day, at least to the week, five years after Hurricane Maria was devastating [the island],” Biden said. “We’re surging federal resources to Puerto Rico and we’ll do everything, everything we can to reach the urgent needs they have.”
Providing aid to Puerto Rico was one of Biden’s campaign pledges. Biden said former President Donald Trump “made things worse” for the island with his response to Hurricane Maria in 2017.
Nearly 3,000 people died on the island as a result of the storm, which left hundreds of thousands without power for months.