The Federal Emergency Management Agency has agreed to continue distributing essential products to Puerto Ricans a day after the organization announced it would withdraw aid from the embattled island.
“FEMA and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico are not stopping the provision of commodities after Hurricane Maria. FEMA and the Commonwealth will continue to provide commodities to voluntary organizations and local officials who still have a need,” read a FEMA statement issued Wednesday.
“There is no decision to stop distribution of commodities. As progress continues from response to recovery across the island, we will continue to support the needs of survivors supporting the government of Puerto Rico,” the statement continued.
The Puerto Rican government said it had reached an agreement under which FEMA agreed to remain responsible for distributing aid.
FEMA announced Tuesday that it would end its efforts to help the U.S. territory recover, and transfer remaining supplies over to the Puerto Rican government for distribution beginning Jan. 31.
Puerto Rican government officials say they were blindsided by the announcement.
“We immediately established communication with FEMA’s operations coordinator for Puerto Rico, Mike Byrne, to clarify the situation. After the conversation, both teams agree that at no time has it been agreed to begin with the transfer of FEMA responsibilities to the Government of Puerto Rico as part of the transition process from the response phase to the recovery phase,” the Official State Coordinator said in a statement Wednesday.
To date, more than $1.6 billion in food and more than $361 billion in water has been provided to survivors of the storm.