WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump is giving himself a “10” for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico.
Trump met Thursday with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello at the White House. The president says the federal government has done a “really great job.” He says he has given his blessing to Congress for a funding plan, but adds that the governor “understands that these folks can’t be there forever.”
Rossello said Trump “has been clear that no US citizen will be left behind.”
The meeting comes after Trump received some criticism for his response to Puerto Rico after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Rossello has been supportive of Trump, while the mayor of San Juan has been outspoken in her criticism.
Much of the island remains without electricity several weeks after Maria struck. Hurricane Maria slammed into the U.S. territory on Sept. 20 as a Category 4 storm that killed at least 48 people, destroyed tens of thousands of homes and left tens of thousands of people without a job. It was the strongest hurricane to hit Puerto Rico in nearly a century, with winds just shy of Category 5 force.
Maria caused as much as an estimated $85 billion in damage across an island already mired in an 11-year recession. That has complicated and delayed efforts to restructure a portion of a $74 billion public debt load that officials say is unpayable. And it has thrust Puerto Rico’s territorial status into the international spotlight, reviving a sharp debate about its political future as the island of 3.4 million people attempts to recover from flooding, landslides and power and water outages.
Roughly 80 percent of power customers remain in the dark, and another 30 percent are without water. Schools remain closed. Stoplights are not operating. And while nearly 90 percent of supermarkets have reopened, many have bare rows of shelves empty of goods ranging from water to bananas to canned tuna.