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FEMA Cutting Off Food and Water Aid to Puerto Rico

Wednesday will mark the last day Puerto Ricans will receive food and water aid from The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). As NPR reports, FEMA will, in its own words, “officially shut off” the aid on January 31.

NPR says the decision signals that the FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has ended.

Until this point, the agency has provided Puerto Rico with more than 30 million gallons of potable water and about 60 million meals in the four months following the devastation wrought by two back-to-back hurricanes. FEMA says its remaining food and water supplies will be handed over to the Puerto Rican government for distribution.

“The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal,” Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA’s director in Puerto Rico, told NPR.

But, according to multiple media outlets, many islanders still lack basic necessities. Think Progress writes that 1 million Puerto Ricans still lack power, and hundreds of thousands still don’t have access to clean water. FEMA, in deciding to close off its food and water aid, said that only 1% of the island still needed that sort of assistance—a small enough number that local governments and nonprofit groups could shoulder the work.

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But that 1% can be tightly concentrated in certain areas. As Morovis mayor Carmen Maldonado told NPR, a third of her 30,000 residents are still receiving FEMA’s food and water rations. Further, even if supermarkets are operational, the island’s lack of power still poses a major problem for Puerto Ricans.

As Maldonado explains, 80% of Morovis still lacks electricity. Whatever money spent on food is money that can’t be spent on fuel.

“In municipalities like this one, where families are going out to work just to buy gas to run a generator, it becomes very hard,” she said.

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BuzzFeed reports that as of Monday, a third of the island was still without power. Some Puerto Ricans told BuzzFeed they hope Donald Trump will address some of these issues during his first State of the Union address, though they’re aware it’s not likely.

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