The Jambar Editorial: Unequal Hurricane Aid

This past week, Hurricane Ian raged through Florida and South Carolina, killing dozens and causing billions of dollars in damages. Ian is the fifth-most costly hurricane in U.S. history, costing insurers more than $40 billion, according to The Guardian. 

As a result, Florida and South Carolina received a lot of federal aid, and rightfully so. One of the purposes of the federal government is to assist the states in times of crisis. Despite this, a significant portion of U.S. territory has received little aid — Puerto Rico.

About a week before Ian, Hurricane Fiona hit Puerto Rico, causing extensive flooding and damage. According to an article from NPR, LUMA — the company that runs Puerto Rico’s power grid — lost power for all of its 1.4 million customers.

The island has a history of faulty power infrastructure, which LUMA was supposed to fix. Clearly, it was unable to and some congressional members criticized LUMA for not being properly prepared for the hurricane.

Perhaps the reason Puerto Rico gets so little support is because its residents — despite being U.S. citizens — do not have a voice in Washington. Puerto Rico does not have any representation in the capital because it is a U.S. territory, not a state. This means that any presidential or congressional candidates do not have to worry about appeasing Puerto Rico’s millions of potential voters.

On Monday, President Biden pledged $60 million in aid to Puerto Rico, despite the damages estimated to be in the billions, according to The New York Times. This is a contrast to former President Donald Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria in 2017, in which Trump infamously was slow and reluctant to send federal aid to Puerto Rico. Despite President Biden’s more active response, the aid still doesn’t seem to be enough.

Because of these developments, some call for Puerto Rico to be added as the 51st state to the U.S. so it could have proper representation. During the 2020 election, the majority of Puerto Ricans voted in a referendum to become a state. However, any attempt to push for legislation to grant Puerto Rico statehood is quickly shut down in congress, according to The Washington Post.  

Whether or not you support Puerto Rico’s case for statehood, this much is true: the U.S. territory lacks the proper infrastructure and funding needed to deal with what seem to be increasingly common hurricanes. Without proper funding, it will not be able to rebuild and recover properly.

Thankfully, the hurricanes seem to be over for now. We at The Jambar hope for the best for victims of both hurricanes, whether they be from U.S. states or territories.