President Donald Trump declared he’s the best thing that has happened to Puerto Rico after his administration released $13 billion in aid as Democrats accused him of playing politics with the timing.
‘I’m the best thing that ever happened to Puerto Rico. Nobody even close,’ Trump said at a White House press conference on Friday.
Trump announced the federal funding on Friday to help the island recover from the devastation brought by 2017’s Hurricane Maria but it also comes at a time he is courting Hispanic voters for his re-election bid, particularly in the critical state of Florida.
Democrats accused the president of playing politics with both money and the timing, noting the funding was coming three years after the island was struck by the devastating storm, which knocked out the electrical grid and caused the longest blackout in U.S. history.
President Donald Trump declared he’s the best thing that has happened to Puerto Rico
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat who was born in Puerto Rico, said the president was doing it purely for political reasons
Trump, meanwhile, tossed the blame to President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden, saying ‘they were a disaster for Puerto Rico, a disaster.’
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, a New York Democrat who was born in Puerto Rico, said the president was doing it purely for political reasons.
‘It’s obvious why this is happening now,’ she told the New York Daily News. ‘Forty-six days before Election Day — he’s playing politics with this assistance.’
The money the administration released will focus on the island’s electrical grid system and to help the recovery of its education system.
‘These grants exceed the total Public Assistance funding in any single federally-declared disaster other than Hurricanes Katrina and Sandy,’ White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said in a statement.
Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico in September 2017 with winds of 155 mph. The storm caused around $100 billion in damage and killed almost 3,000 people. Trump claimed the death toil was exaggerated to make him look bad.
President Trump and first lady Melania Trump visited the island in October 2017 after the storm struck
Both Trump and Joe Biden are courting the Hispanic vote, above Biden talks to Puerto Rican voters in Florida when he was in the state on Tuesday
Puerto Rico saw its electrical grid wiped out after Hurricane Maria hit the island
The announcement comes less than two months before the November election, when both candidates are fighting to win Florida, a critical state with a large number of Puerto Rican voters.
Joe Biden was in the state on Tuesday to court that voting bloc.
Biden said Trump ‘has done nothing but assault the dignity of Hispanic families’ in a speech in Kissimmee, where many people settled after fleeing Maria’s devastation.
Kissimmee, a city outside Orlando, is the center of the state’s Puerto Rican vote.
Trump is also wooing Hispanic voters and has bragged how he is doing better among them than Biden.
Polls have shown he has an edge over his Democratic rival in that voting bloc.
Puerto Rico was already struggling financially before Maria made landfall three years ago.
It had filed a form of municipal bankruptcy in 2017 to restructure about $120 billion of debt and obligations.
Trump used that filing to with hold aid to the island after the deadly hurricane, saying he was concerned about corruption and speculating that federal funds could go missing.
He feuded publicly with the mayor of San Juan over his holding up of funds. And, on his October 2017 visit, he was criticized for throwing rolls of paper towels into the crowd when he stopped by a church.
Democrats earlier this year posted an image of the scene on a billboard in Kissimmee, the AP reported.
Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s power grid in addition to landslides and structural damage it caused. In the aftermath, the island was hit by Hurricane Isaias, a series of earthquakes and the coronavirus.
Meanwhile, Florida is rapidly becoming Ground Zero in the 2020 campaign.
Biden made his rare in-person appearance in the state on Tuesday on the same day a Monmouth poll showed him leading Trump by five points in Florida.
And Michael Bloomberg announced this weekend he will spend at least $100 million of his own money to support Biden’s campaign in Florida, mainly through television ad buys. With 10 media markets, Florida is one of the most expensive TV ad states in the nation.
Trump mocked the former mayor’s investment in the state.
‘Mini Mike Bloomberg, after making a total fool of himself as he got badly beaten up by Pocahontas and the Democrats in the Primaries, is at it again. He tried to buy an Election and went away with a major case of Depression. Now he’s throwing money at the Dems, looking for a job!,’ he tweeted on Friday.
Puerto Rico was subject to flooding and landslides after Maria hit the island
President Trump tossed paper towels to the crowd during his October 2017 visit, a move that was criticized
Hurricane Maria caused $100 billion in damage and killed almost 3,000 people
If Biden wins Florida’s 29 electoral votes, Trump’s path to a second term is hard to see.
It’s been almost 100 years since a Republican has won the White House without taking Florida.
And, to show of competitive and contested it is, in six of the last seven presidential races, the Sunshine state has been decided by less than five points.
Biden’s two events were focused on Latino voters and veteran communities, as he needs to firm up his support with Hispanic voters.
The Trump campaign is also campaigning hard in the state. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence have made several appearances there.
The campaign is also running a Women for Trump bus tour through Florida, being led by Lara Trump, the president’s daughter in law and popular campaign surrogate.
Meanwhile, Ivanka Trump campaigned in Florida on Thursday: Pam Bondi, left, former Florida Attorney General, talks with her during a Fireside Chat at the Columbia Restaurant in Tampa
Master Baker Anthony Ali, left, teaches Ivanka Trump how to roll Cuban bread at La Segunda Central Bakery during another campaign stop
Additionally, first daughter Ivanka Trump was in Tampa on Thursday to campaign for her father.
Ivanka Trump, who serves as an adviser to Trump in the White House, held a ‘fireside chat’ with former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi in Tampa for her father’s campaign.
She also learned how to roll Cuban bread at La Segunda Central Bakery, where she ordered three loaves of Cuban bread and some guava pastries to bring home with her to Washington D.C.