President Donald Trump falsely claimed in a pair of tweets Thursday that Congress had "foolishly" sent $92 billion of aid money to Puerto Rico, which “squandered away or wasted” much of it.
Congress has allocated $42.5 billion to disaster relief for Puerto Rico, according to federal data, but the island had received less than $14 billion through May. Trump signed another aid bill in June that will send an additional $1 billion to the island. The bulk of aid dollars is still in Washington, much of it waiting on processes that require officials to submit a series of plans outlining how they expect to use the money and await federal approval.
What's more, the aid Puerto Rico received is a fraction of what it needs — Hurricane Maria inflicted an estimated $90 billion in damage on the island.
The island will receive additional funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency; The Washington Post reported that an Office of Management and Budget estimate of the possible liabilities over the life of the disaster could reach as high as $50 billion under the Stafford Act, though the estimate is expected to change and that number would take many years to reach.
Puerto Rico was ravaged by Hurricanes Irma and Maria almost two years ago. Maria led to the deaths of at least 2,975 people, making it among the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history. But aid has been slow to reach the island for a number of reasons, including Trump himself. He reportedly opposed sending aid to the island so much he delayed one disaster relief bill for months.
There is some evidence that money and relief have been wasted — aid and food have rotted amid mismanagement, and a corruption scandal recently erupted involving the alleged embezzlement of $15.5 million in federal funding between 2017 and 2019 — but there is no evidence that tens of billions of federal dollars have met this fate.
Trump's tweets come amid widespread protests in Puerto Rico for the governor to resign amid a corruption scandal, but it isn’t Trump’s first time misleading on Puerto Rico’s recovery. He’s repeatedly said that Puerto Rico got $91 billion in aid, that they’ve wasted it, and complained that Congress should stop giving them money.