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Trump pushes inflated dollar figure to lament disaster aid for Puerto Rico as ’yet another big storm’ approaches


Storm clouds gather as Tropical Storm Dorian moves toward St. Michael Parish, Barbados, Monday. (Chris Brandis/AP)

President Trump used a wildly inflated dollar figure Tuesday to lament how much disaster aid Puerto Rico has received since he took office, as residents on the hurricane-ravaged island braced for yet another potentially devastating storm.

Shortly after a hurricane watch was issued for Puerto Rico in light of approaching Tropical Storm Dorian, Trump noted that the U.S. territory has received $92 billion in federal aid since Maria and Irma battered the island in 2017 and left more than 3,000 people dead.

“Wow! Yet another big storm heading to Puerto Rico. Will it ever end?” the president tweeted. “Congress approved 92 Billion Dollars for Puerto Rico last year, an all time record of its kind for ‘anywhere.’”

Despite Trump’s oft-repeated claim, Congress has only allocated $42.7 billion in aid to Puerto Rico. Of that, roughly $14 billion has reached the island so far, according to data from Trump’s own Federal Emergency Management Agency.

The $92 billion figure referenced by Trump is a rough estimate of potential storm-related aid that Puerto Rico could need over the coming two decades.

A White House spokesman did not return a request for comment.

Trump’s tweet came as Dorian rapidly approached the southeastern tip of Puerto Rico.

As of Tuesday, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said the tropical storm had maximum sustained winds around 50 mph, with forecasts expecting it to pick up strength over the coming 48 hours, as it makes its way through the Caribbean.

The storm could develop into a hurricane before it arrives near or south of Puerto Rico on Wednesday, according to forecasts. Portions of the Dominican Republican and the U.S. Virgin Islands could also be affected, according to the Hurricane Center.

A tentative long-term track shows Dorian could hit Florida over Labor Day weekend.

Puerto Rico is ill-prepared for another hurricane, with large chunks of the island’s electrical grid still being shaky since Hurricane Maria all but destroyed it in September 2017.

Grocery stores on the island were reported to be running out of bottled water and other supplies Tuesday as residents rushed to stock up before the storm’s expected landfall.

Despite the massive death toll and long-lasting damage inflicted on Puerto Rico by the 2017 hurricanes, Trump has repeatedly clashed with island leaders over the need to give them federal aid, prompting critics to accuse him of racism, as he’s been overwhelmingly keen on subsidizing states like Texas and Florida when they’ve been in similar hardships.

Trump’s latest Puerto Rico missive comes amid reports that he proposed during closed-door meetings in the early days of his presidency to prevent hurricanes by nuking them.

“Please don’t use a nuke to stop this storm. That’s not what a bomb cyclone means,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sardonically tweeted at Trump on Tuesday.

“Also, you’re lying again about disaster aid to Puerto Rico," Lieu continued. "While it’s true the hurricane caused more than $90b in damage, Puerto Rico only received about $15b as of June.”