During a long-overdue tour of Puerto Rico to survey hurricane damage, President Trump had few comforting words for victims on the island. Instead, the president gave Puerto Ricans an earful about all the money the US government is spending to help the US territory.
"I hate to tell you, Puerto Rico, but you are throwing our budget out of whack," he said. "We've spent a lot of money in Puerto Rico."
It was an odd thing to say at a moment when presidents are expected to offer comforting words to disaster victims. Even worse, it doesn't seem to be true. Based on FEMA public assistance data, the government isn't spending that much money in Puerto Rico yet.
On Tuesday, a spokesperson for FEMA told me that the agency had approved $35 million in public and individual assistance grants for the island. This includes help for people to rebuild homes and businesses, and for local governments to provide emergency services. Meanwhile, FEMA has approved $691 million in grants to Irma victims in Florida and has sent $323 million to Texas communities recovering from Harvey.
The amount of FEMA money approved for Puerto Rico is hardly breaking the US budget. It's true that public assistance figures don't capture all the money the federal government spends to respond to a disaster (the cost of sending federal workers to help out, for example). But you don't hear the president complaining about the hundreds of millions of dollars it's spending to help communities in Texas and Florida. That's because he shouldn't.