Is Puerto Rico entitled to the same amount of disaster aid as a state?

The options for the US government in assisting Puerto Rico

ST. PETERSBURG — After Harvey and Irma, our disaster resources are already working overtime.

And there are some concerns Puerto Rico won't get the attention it needs.

The National Guard is on the ground and FEMA is starting to respond but does the island, a commonwealth of the US, get the same treatment as Florida or any other state after a natural disaster?

Nightside reporter Mark Rivera is here to break down who is responsible for Puerto Rico's recovery.

So far, a billion dollars has been earmarked for recovery, but six days later, it's not apparent.

Puerto Rico's Governor Ricardo Rosselló says, "We are looking for aid for Puerto Rico that is consistent to aid received elsewhere in the United States."

And they deserve it.

Puerto Rico first became a U-S responsibility after the Spanish-American war...when Spain was forced to give it up.

That was back in 1898.

That means the island has been important to the US and under its control for more than 120 years.

Puerto Ricans were granted U-S citizenship in 1917.

That means Puerto Ricans have the same protections under the law and can vote for the President just like you and me if they live on the U.S. mainland - like here in Florida or any other state. And the Stafford Act of 1988 makes it clear.

When it comes to natural disasters, the federal government has a responsibility to help States and any place, " an emergency exists for which the primary responsibility for response rests with the United States." Any place the US, "exercises exclusive or preeminent...authority."

That's Puerto Rico in a nutshell.

There's a local government, but just like in a state, it's subordinate to the laws and in many ways dependent on the Feds for resources.

The issues with the speed of response may be a logistical one.

Eighty-five percent of power lines have been knocked out. Authorities are saying it will take months if not a year to restore power to the island in full.

Imagine if Puerto Rico was connected to Florida by land.

The lineman could stage, and so could emergency resources.

Six days ago, that was an impossibility and FEMA resources are already stretched thin.

© 2017 WTSP-TV


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