FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, will end free supplies of food and water to Puerto Rico this week it was announced today. The agency cites the reopening of the island’s supermarkets and other businesses after the devastation of Hurricane Maria as proof the agency’s services are no longer needed.
“The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal,” said Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA Puerto Rico director, in an interview.
Not all of Puerto Rico’s officials agree with the agency’s decision to end aid. The mayor of Morovis, Carmen Madonado, says the number of customers in her town without power is still close to 80%. “There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore…ours is not so lucky,” she said.
De La Campa characterized the ending of aid as an economic issue, encouraging citizens to go back to stores and supermarkets to boost the island’s economy. “If we’re giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy,” he said. “It is affecting the economy of Puerto Rico. So we need to create a balance. With the financial assistance we’re providing to families and the municipalities, they’re able to go back to the normal economy.”
The island’s government says that power and fresh water have been restored to 80% and 96% of Puerto Rico’s residents respectively.
FEMA still plans to assist volunteer agencies and nonprofits with relief efforts in Puerto Rico, but stressed that emergency and donated goods will no longer be provided. “The commercial supply chain for food and water is re-established and private suppliers are sufficiently available that FEMA provided commodities are no longer needed for emergency operations,” the agency said.