Heck of a job!

Excellent news! Conditions in Puerto Rico have gotten so terrific that the Federal Emergency Management Agency has decided it will cut off deliveries of emergency food and water to hurricane victims there. It sure is great that nobody on the island still needs help getting food and drinkable water, isn't it? Oh, except for how that's not exactly the situation: In reality, many rural parts of the island still have no electricity and no access to clean water, but FEMA has decided it's time to end the emergency deliveries to municipalities as of Wednesday, the end of the month, because continued free stuff could make Puerto Ricans lazy, and it's time to let the free market do its magic.

"The reality is that we just need to look around. Supermarkets are open, and things are going back to normal," said Alejandro De La Campa, FEMA's director in Puerto Rico [...]

"If we're giving free water and food, that means that families are not going to supermarkets to buy," De La Campa said. "It is affecting the economy of Puerto Rico. So we need to create a balance. With the financial assistance we're providing to families and the municipalities, they're able to go back to the normal economy."

FEMA's internal metrics show that only about one percent of Puerto Ricans still need emergency food or water, so it's time to shift the emphasis to longterm recovery efforts. To that end, it's time to "officially shut off" -- FEMA's term -- the emergency supplies. Remaining stocks of bottled water and ready to eat rations will be turned over to Puerto Rico's government to distribute as needed. Sounds like FEMA has finally heeded Donald Trump's warning from just three weeks after the hurricane:

The news that everything's back to mostly normal came as a surprise to Mayor Carmen Maldonado of Morovis, a municipality of about 30,000 people in the island's mountainous interior. She says roughly 10,000 residents in her community are still getting emergency deliveries of food and water. And while electrical power has been restored to about 2/3 of the island as a whole, Mayor Maldonado says about 80 percent of her town still lacks electricity. And since just surviving is taking up a lot of their time, her residents aren't quite in a position to just nip down to the local supermarket, because the basic infrastructure of modern life is still shredded:

"There are some municipalities that may not need the help anymore, because they've got nearly 100 percent of their energy and water back," she said. "Ours is not so lucky [...]

"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, "because money they would use to buy food they're instead using to buy fuel."

For that matter, since over half of Morovis's population earn less than the federal poverty level, many residents don't even have a generator, which would be needed to run a refrigerator, and that means once folks get to a market (which may require detours of an hour or more both ways, since many roads are still ruined), any fresh food they get has to be eaten right away. The lucky duckies who could afford a generator for several hundred dollars are spending $25 to $40 a day to fuel the things, which cuts down on the surplus money for food, too.

Yes, deleted commenters, here's where you jump in to tell Puerto Ricans to work harder and take responsibility for themselves. Have they considered maybe saving some money by stiffing the local government on their property taxes?

Maldonado said she hoped FEMA would take towns like hers into account before discontinuing the emergency food and water deliveries, but the agency seems pretty determined to declare Mission Accomplished and get back to its hotel in San Juan. Worse, the mayor says, she hasn't heard a thing from the the Puerto Rico Emergency Management Agency (PREMA), the territorial authority that's supposed to take over delivery of the emergency supplies FEMA is handing over to Puerto Rico. Nope, not a word from PREMA, which is supposed to take over the job in two days. But at least PREMA is responding to press inquiries, sort of:

A spokeswoman for PREMA, Beatriz Diaz, acknowledged receiving NPR's emailed questions regarding the agency's plan for distributing the food and water supplies, but did not provide answers to those questions despite multiple requests over more than a week.

A FEMA spokesperson said PREMA had been fully briefed on how to take over the work and that the two agencies had "developed a contingency plan to support any unmet needs." But as of February 1, it's all on PREMA, because the feds wouldn't dream of butting in on local control. Maybe if PREMA threatened to start delivering medical marijuana...

Listen to the whole infuriating report:

Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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