With over a million U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico facing devastating food stamp cuts as Congress fails to provide necessary hurricane relief funding, President Donald Trump reportedly complained to Republican senators on Tuesday that the island is receiving "too much" aid—a position that was decried as both false and cruel.
"The president continues to show his vindictive behavior towards Puerto Rico and he continues to make the humanitarian crisis worse," said San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz. "He is ensuring that people don't have food to put on the table."
"The federal response and its treatment during these past months in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is clear evidence of our second-class citizenship."
—Ricardo Rosselló, governor of Puerto Rico
Trump's remarks came during a private lunch with Republicans Tuesday, during which—according to the Washington Post—the president inflated the amount of aid Puerto Rico has received since Hurricane Maria and pushed lawmakers to limit funding to the island.
"At the lunch Tuesday, Trump rattled off the amount of aid that had been designated for other disaster-hit states and compared it with the amount allocated for Puerto Rico following the 2017 hurricane, which he said was too high," the Post reported.
After claiming that Puerto Rico has received $91 billion in federal aid—it is unclear where he got this number—Trump reportedly said "one could buy Puerto Rico four times over for $91 billion."
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló responded with outrage to Trump's reported comments in a statement late Tuesday.
"People from all over the nation, and the world, have witnessed the inequalities Americans face on the island," Rosselló said. "The federal response and its treatment during these past months in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria is clear evidence of our second-class citizenship."
"Mr. President: Enough with the insults and demeaning characterizations," he added. "We are not asking for anything more than any other U.S. state has received. We are merely asking for equality."
Trump's complaint about aid to the storm-ravaged island comes as an estimated 1.3 million Puerto Ricans—including hundreds of thousands of children and elderly people—have had life-saving food aid cut amid inaction and obstruction from the White House and congressional Republicans.
"We just don't have the money right now," said Myrna Izquierdo, an administrator at a Puerto Rican health clinic that relies on food stamp funding. "It's very hard. It is so unfair. That cut is going to kill us."
NEW: Crisis sets in 4 Puerto Ricans after food stamp cuts hit 1.3 million
-- HIV patients forced to sit for hours in own filth bc diapers too expensive
-- Mothers cutting back on produce, meat for kids
-- Elderly expecting to go hungry
— Jeff Stein (@JStein_WaPo) March 25, 2019
The amount of reporting we have about the president's willful neglect of American citizens in Puerto Rico should be a bigger story, imo https://t.co/sSTj8CGRN9
— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) March 26, 2019
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Senate advanced a disaster relief bill that Democrats said is far from adequate to address the crises in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. According to one study, the storm may have killed nearly 6,000 people.
"The lack of leadership and coordination, combined with delays in meeting the basic needs of the island, more than 18 months after receiving a presidential disaster declaration, has left far too many children and elderly citizens in unhealthy and unsafe conditions, families in severely damaged homes and communities without adequate infrastructure to sustain a decent quality of life," Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) wrote in a letter to the White House on Tuesday.
Despite the island's dire situation, Trump has reportedly said that he "doesn't want another single dollar going to the island."
"Puerto Rico is in dire need of increased food assistance funding," Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) wrote on Twitter this week. "It's unconscionable that we've allowed our fellow Americans to suffer for so long without the full resources of the U.S. government. We must act now to end this crisis."