100 days since Hurricane Maria: Has anything changed?

The Florida lawmaker has just returned from the island, and says the White House is doing little to help.

Friday marked 100 days since Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in the dark.

The local government reports a little more than half of the island is using electricity.

Close to 4,000 people are in shelters and thousands of families have relocated to the U.S. mainland. Most of them have come to Florida.

Sen. Bill Nelson recently traveled to Puerto Rico, to get a first-hand look at what's happening there.

Friday afternoon, he met with community leaders helping people who left the island after Maria.

He started the meeting by saying, “I’m sad to bring you this report.”

Nelson visited some of the hospitals, some that now have power, but one in the small town of Las Piedras shocked him.

“The roof is so damaged and all the water is coming in. They've had to close the two top floors to try and isolate all the mold and the mildew. These are not conditions our fellow American citizens should be living in,” says Nelson.

To make matters worse, the senator said staff treating patients at hospitals are becoming scarce. With 6,000 doctors leaving the island, only 9,000 are left.

But it's not just the hurricane's lingering damage affecting the island.

Under the GOP tax plan, Puerto Rico's struggling economy will take a future hit.

“A knife was put to the neck of Puerto Rico because they've always had an advantage that its manufacturing would have no income tax to encourage manufacturing,” he says.

Now, with a higher income tax, Nelson feels manufacturing companies will leave the island, taking thousands of jobs from the people already struggling to find work.

“This tax bill imposed a 13.1 percent income tax on those manufacturing facilities. It's not right, it's not fair,” he says.

Nelson also spoke on the disaster spending bill Congress is expected to take up early next month.

The $81 billion bill will provide aid to for hurricane recovery in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, along with fires that affected California.

It passed the House 251-169, but it's not expected to be taken up in the Senate until after the new year.

With a huge population using Medicaid in Puerto Rico, Nelson is worried that money will dissipate.

“About next March, Medicaid, which was given in a block grant, will run out. That’s an inexcusable situation, treating PR different and just giving them a block grant instead of on the formula like we do other states,” says Nelson.

Nelson ended the meeting with a promise to try and reverse, what the tax plan could do to the island, but says it's not going to be easy.

“I'm not getting any help from the White House and I'm not getting any help from the GOP in the Senate,” he says.

FEMA is helping more than 10,000 hurricane survivors stay in hotel rooms in Puerto Rico and the mainland.

© 2018 WTSP-TV


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