News and Commentary

FEMA Director Says Agency Is Now ‘Filtering Out’ San Juan Mayor From Puerto Rico Response

FEMA’s director of operations Brock Long says the agency has long since “filtered out” San Juan mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz, and her angry feud with President Donald Trump over Puerto Rico hurricane relief.

Speaking to ABC’s This Week, Long said the agency has been on the ground for weeks, helping Puerto Rico’s residents rebuild following Hurricane Maria, and distrubuting thousands of pounds of supplies. The agency has been working with the Army Corps of Engineers to rebuild and improve Puerto Rico’s dismal infrastructure system, which will help Puerto Ricans get clean water, use the island’s electricity, and receive donations of food and medical supplies.

But San Juan’s mayor has turned a relief effort into a political circus, Long seemed to say, and FEMA just doesn’t have the time of bandwith needed to become bogged down in an opportunistic political battle.

“We filtered out the mayor a long time ago. We don’t have time for the political noise,” Long said. “The bottom line is, is that we are making progress every day in conjunction with the governor.”

“Rebuilding, rebuilding Puerto Rico is going to be a greater conversation for the Congress in conjunction with the governor on … what the way forward is in the future of Puerto Rico,” Long continued.

Long says contrary to reports, about 85% of FEMA is deployed at the moment, serving US states and territories affected by recent weather disasters. FEMA is contending with response efforts in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands and, Brock says, they’re all top priority.

Brock says the agency is “strapped” but also says Congress approved a $6.7 billion temporary budget increase recently so that FEMA can help everywhere its needed.

Cruz, of course, has made it her daily mission to Puerto Rico recovery efforts into a political football in battle with President Donald Trump. The mayor, who even Puerto Rico officials claim hasn’t been a collaborative part of relief efforts — despite the fact that tens of thousands of relief supplies sit in a port in her own city — has instead been spending her time crafting and screenprinting tee shirts.