President Biden and the First Lady visited Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona, announcing allocations of more than $60 million for rebuilding projects that will strengthen the Island against future storms.
More than sovereign nations
Puerto Rico is receiving more aid from the federal government than sovereign nations receive from the U.S. during their times of need. Other countries receive funds from the U.S. through the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance.
Immediate disaster relief can total up to $50,000. The eventual total can be much larger in rare situations. For example, in 2021 Ethiopia received $1.13 billion in response to drought, floods, epidemics, and war.
The Philippines, formerly a U.S. territory, received $29.2 million from the U.S. government in May 2022 in response to a major typhoon.
While these funds are certainly useful, and the United States gives more than any other country in foreign aid, the amounts are less than comparable funding for the states.
Less than states
Texas, Florida, California and North Carolina have received at least one billion dollars each from FEMA in disaster relief for recent natural disasters. All these states have larger populations than Puerto Rico, but estimates of the destruction in Puerto Rico put the total loss at more than $139 billion. Far less than this amount have actually been provided to Puerto Rico, even now, five years after Hurricane Maria.
NOAA estimates the total cost of Hurricane Harvey at $125 billion and Hurricane Katrina at $161 billion.
The amounts provided to survivors were larger than for Puerto Rico, and the timeline was also different. “Survivors in Texas and Florida received around $100 million in assistance from FEMA within nine days of hurricanes Harvey and Irma hitting the region,” according to Augurisk. “Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria survivors only received $6 million over the same period.”
As a territory of the United States, Puerto Rico receives more disaster assistance from the federal government than foreign countries receive.
As a state, Puerto Rico would likely receive more than the U.S. territory currently does.
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With all due respect to all Puerto Ricans, I see the postings as a futile intellectual exercise. Ángel Collado Schwarz writes in The Bride Refuses to Marry (July 28, 2006): “To continue discussing the advantages and disadvantages of statehood for Puerto Rico is a sterile exercise. Americans do not respect people who do not stand up for themselves. They respect people who respect themselves.” (Appeared in Ángel Collado-Schwarz: Decolonization Models for America’s Last Colony: Puerto Rico. Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2012.)
While pointing out how Puerto Rico would financially benefit from statehood might convince more Puerto Ricans to vote for statehood, it might have the opposite effect in the United States.
I also wonder if aspiring to be a state of the United States of America is a delusion since Puerto Rico has remained to be an unincorporated territory, a property, of the United Stated that was not set on the path toward statehood from the beginning. The Congress of the United States has been consistent about this for the past 124 years.