President Joe Biden offered his unwavering support for Puerto Rico’s recovery from Hurricane Fiona, even as Florida reels from Hurricane Ian.
“We are not leaving here, as long as I’m president, until everything — I mean this sincerely — every single thing that we can do is done,” he said from Ponce, one of the areas of Puerto Rico hardest hit by Fiona.
It’s been two weeks since Hurricane Fiona ravaged Puerto Rico on Sept. 18, dumping up to 30 inches of rain in some areas as a Category 1 storm and killing at least 13 people, according to the island’s health department. The storm came almost five years to the day after Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria, which killed 3,000 people and caused massive power outages that lasted for nearly a year in some areas.
Over 100,000 Puerto Ricans were without power as of Monday morning, according to LUMA Energy. Hundreds of thousands initially lacked access to clean water, but that number has fallen to 33,000 households, according to the government’s emergency news portal.
“As we rebuild, we have to ensure that we build it to last,” Biden said. “We’re particularly focused on the power grid. This year to date, Puerto Rico has received $4 million to help make the power grid more resilient — that number is going to go up.”
The White House on Monday announced the allocation of $60 million from the bipartisan infrastructure law for improvements that would help prevent hurricane damage. Projects would include levees and flood walls, as well as a new flood warning system.
That $60 million is in addition to the $2 billion already allocated to Puerto Rico through the bipartisan infrastructure law. Biden previously signed a major disaster declaration for the island, guaranteeing that the federal government would cover in full the costs related to Hurricane Fiona relief in Puerto Rico for the next month.
Biden on Wednesday will visit Florida, which is in the process of recovering from Hurricane Ian. The Category 4 storm, which made landfall in Florida on Wednesday before moving up the eastern U.S. coast, has reportedly killed more than 80 people. That number is expected to rise as floodwaters recede and rescue teams access new areas.
Hurricane Ian is shaping up to be the costliest Florida hurricane since Andrew in 1992, with wind and storm surge damage estimated to be between $28 billion and $47 billion. Roughly 600,000 homes and businesses in Florida were without power as of Monday morning, down from a peak of 2.6 million on Thursday, according to PowerOutage.us.