U.S. To Pick Up Tab For Puerto Rico Debris Removal

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy in the Rose Garden of the White House, Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

WASHINGTON — The Latest on President Donald Trump and Puerto Rico (all times local):

3:10 p.m.

The federal government will pick up 100 percent of the costs of for debris removal and other emergency assistance provided to Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Maria.

President Donald Trump made the change Tuesday as part of an amendment to his earlier disaster declaration authorizing federal aid in response to the Category 4 storm. U.S. states and territories typically cover 25 percent of the costs, with the federal government paying the remaining 75 percent.

Puerto Rican officials and sympathetic members of Congress had called on Trump to relieve the island’s cash-strapped government of the cost-sharing requirement.

Trump’s declaration covers costs for removing downed trees, utility poles and other debris, as well as spending for emergency protective measures taken to save lives, protect public health and ensure public safety.

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2:30 p.m.

President Donald Trump says he was not preoccupied with his fight with the NFL over the weekend at the expense of storm-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Trump was asked Tuesday about criticism that he was paying too much attention to the fight over football players kneeling during the national anthem. He says he has “plenty of time” on his hands, adding that all he does is work. Speaking out against the protests, he said, amounts to “respect for our country” and is part of his job.

Trump has come under criticism that his administration responded too slowly to the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, where Hurricane Maria knocked out power to virtually the entire island. He said he is visiting Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands on Tuesday.

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2:10 p.m.

President Donald Trump is sending “America’s hearts and prayers” to people in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and says he’ll visit both places next week.

Trump said Tuesday that a “massive” effort to help people recover from Hurricane Maria is underway. He added that includes the military, though he did not give specifics.

Trump spoke in the White House Rose Garden after he received criticism from some U.S. lawmakers that the administration’s response to Hurricane Maria has fallen short of its efforts in Texas and Florida after storms there.

Maria roared ashore Sept. 20 and knocked out nearly all power in Puerto Rico, leaving its 3.4 million residents short of food, water and supplies.

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12:50 p.m.

A group of 10 Democratic senators has requested that Congress immediately take up legislation to help the residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The lawmakers say a supplemental spending bill is needed right away because of the devastation brought by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

They say the two U.S. territories need financial help to rebuild homes, provide temporary housing and repair vital infrastructure. Without it, they say the challenging road to recovery will only be prolonged.

The lawmakers are making the request as part of a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

They say, “as members of Congress, we have an obligation to ensure all citizens of the United States affected by natural disasters have sufficient resources to recover.”

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11:40 a.m.

Congressional Democrats say President Donald Trump is not acknowledging the gravity of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Rep. Nydia Velazquez, D-NY, says she is concerned that Trump’s continued tweets about NFL players show he doesn’t grasp the severity of the crisis.

She warned Trump that, “If you don’t take this crisis seriously this is going to be your Katrina,” referring to criticism of President George W. Bush following Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Velazquez also said she was “offended and insulted” by Trump’s tweet that Puerto Rico’s public debt contributed to the crisis.

Rep. Joe Crowley, D-NY, called it “absolutely ridiculous” for Trump to mention debt “when people are suffering and dying. Here’s a president who’s used bankruptcy throughout his entire career.”

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11:11 a.m.

President Donald Trump says he’ll visit hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico next Tuesday.

Trump announced the visit after the administration came under criticism for its response to the damage on the island that is home to more than 3 million U.S. citizens. The island has been coping with shortages of food, drinking water, electricity and various forms of communication after Hurricane Maria struck earlier this month.

Trump said Tuesday is the earliest he can visit without disrupting recovery operations.

He says he may also visit the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Trump says Puerto Rico is important to him. He says Puerto Ricans are “great people and we need to help them.”

Sep 26 2:55PM EDT

 
 

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