In the fall of 2017, Puerto Rico was devastated by Hurricane Maria. The storm wreaked havoc on the island’s infrastructure and electrical grid, damaged or destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, and ultimately left nearly 3,000 people dead.
More than a year and a half later, Puerto Rico is yet to make a full recovery. Debris remains scattered across some parts of the island. The electrical grid is still fragile, and many families continue to rely on make-shift roofs patched with blue tarps to keep them safe from the elements. The only hospital on the island of Vieques remains shuttered, forcing local patients to make long journeys to the mainland for treatment.
As the people of Puerto Rico continue to suffer, a partisan standoff is underway in Washington over how much more funding will be allocated towards Puerto Rico’s disaster relief efforts. President Donald Trump this week erroneously claimed that the U.S. territory has received $91 billion in aid, more “than any state in U.S. history.” Following his lead, Republicans in Congress are pushing to exclude further funding for Puerto Rico in a larger disaster relief bill that seeks to provide aid to other locations affected by disasters, including fire-ravaged Northern California and the hurricane-hit Florida Panhandle.
To discuss all of this and more, The Globe Post spoke with Dr. Irwin Redlener, one of the nation’s leading experts on disaster relief and preparedness. Dr. Redlener is the founder and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University, where he is also a clinical professor of Health Policy and Pediatrics.