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Puerto Rico governor airs grievances before meeting with Trump

Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:37:07 +0000

ABC News(NEW YORK) -- Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who will be meeting with President Trump later today, revealed that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to restore power to his besieged island’s electricity grid.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., sat down with Rossello this morning, and recounted his conversation to reporters.

“Apparently, according to the government of Puerto Rico, they have yet to execute on a power restoration contract to begin the restoration work, even the immediate work. So we need to see what are the impediments to that happening,” Rubio said after the nearly hour-long meeting.

He added, “Four weeks after the storm, they are where Florida was 48 hours after the storm.”

Rubio also said the $36.5 billion disaster relief package, which the Senate is likely to vote on late Thursday night, is too wrapped up in red tape to provide immediate relief to the U.S. territory.

He said that in order for the Puerto Rican government to access some of the funds, it will first need to conduct time-consuming damage assessments, preventing the government from being able to immediately allocate the money.

“It's great that there's a bunch of money sitting there, that there's a pile of money ready to help with assistance, but if their ability to get a hold of that money and use it is going to require a three-month process, then it's not going to do a lot of good,” he said.

Puerto Rico's energy infrastructure was facing a "crisis" prior to Hurricane Maria, according to a report commissioned by the Puerto Rican Electrical Power Authority in November 2016. The analysis noted that the island's power grid was "literally falling apart" due to poor maintenance and planning.

As of Wednesday, 19.1 percent of customers on the island have electricity, according to the Puerto Rico governor's office.

Rossello is meeting with Trump at the White House and he said he will be asking for the administration to focus not just on Puerto Rico’s short-term needs but also the medium and long-term goals to stabilize and rebuild.

“We need equal treatment, we need all of the resources so that we can get out of the emergency and of course the resources to rebuild stronger than before,” he said.

ABC News' Erin Dooley contributed to this report.

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