Trump v PR

Ken AshfordDisasters, Trump & AdministrationLeave a Comment

Where to begin?

Puerto Rico did got 91 billions dollars. Here’s the best possible estimate:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency: $15 billion obligated ($9.9 billion in outlays)
  • Army Corps of Engineers: $2.5 billion approved ($3 million in outlays)
  • Community Development Block Grants-Disaster Recovery (Housing and Urban Development): $20 billion approved, of which $1.5 billion has been obligated
  • Small Business Administration: $1.95 billion for homes/business loans obligated ($1.1 billion in outlays)
  • Education Department: $710 million obligated ($28 million in outlays)
  • FEMA community disaster loans: $294 million obligated ($128 million in outlays)
  • Various other agencies: $266 million approved (lesser amounts in outlays)

That adds up to nearly $41 billion in announced funding. But notice words like “obligated” and “outlays”?

Here’s an explanation:

  • Outlays = money has been delivered
  • Obligated = spending has been identified but money not delivered
  • Approved = A budget allocation has been made, but money has not been obligated or disbursed.

About half of the money scheduled for Puerto Rico comes from the HUD grants. But virtually none of that funding has been spent yet. 

In reality, the island so far has only received about $11 billion.

So how does Trump come up with $91 billion?

The president was referring to an internal Office of Management and Budget estimate of the potential liabilities over the life of the disaster that would need to be committed under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act of 1988. The estimate was described as a high-end estimate subject to change year by year.

Currently, the estimated Stafford liabilities amount to $50 billion. Adding the $41 billion in announced funding to the $50 billion in Stafford liabilities gets you to $91 billion.

Notice that we said the additional $50 billion was “over the life of a disaster.” That means it’s a long-term figure, beyond the traditional 10-year budget horizon. Indeed, one congressional aide estimated that Stafford payments will continue for 20 years in Puerto Rico. The government is still paying for the damage from Hurricane Katrina almost 14 years after it struck New Orleans.

Texas has been allocated $25 billion, but its estimated Stafford liabilities are much smaller — just $4 billion, according to the OMB estimate. Together, that adds up to $29 billion.

That’s how much had “been gotten” by those states in THOSE hurricanes. But 3,000 died in Puerto Rico — it was a much worse hurricane.

And someone needs to tell Trump that Puerto Rico is part of the United States. I don’t think they know that in the White House. White House spokesman Hogan Gidley twice referred to Puerto Rico as “that country” during a television appearance today in which he defended a series of tweets by President Trump lashing out at leaders of the U.S. territory.