Puerto Ricans running out of cash as Hurricane woes mount

Image: People wait in line to withdraw cash at a bank in San Juan

People wait in line to withdraw cash at a bank in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, in San Juan, Puerto Rico on Sept. 27, 2017. Gerald Herbert / AP

FEMA has reached out to all of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities “and delivered some commodities to all of them,” John Rabin, FEMA Region II acting regional administrator, said during a teleconference Thursday afternoon.

FEMA said on its website Thursday that it has “provided millions of meals and millions of liters of water to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Additional meals and water continue to arrive to the islands daily.”

Meanwhile, the White House announced Thursday that it had temporarily

waived the Jones Act — a nearly century-old shipping law many have said is hampering relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

“At @ricardorossello request, @POTUS has authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico. It will go into effect immediately,” the White House press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, tweeted Thursday morning.

The acting Homeland Security secretary, Elaine Duke, confirmed the move, saying that the temporary waiver will last for 10 days and covers all products being shipped to Puerto Rico.

Officials both in Puerto Rico and on the U.S. mainland had been calling on the administration to waive the act.


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But as the island’s residents continued to grow desperate for basic necessities, thousands of containers for local communities are sitting in Puerto Rico’s ports.

“Overall in the ports of Puerto Rico there are over 9,500 containers” full of necessary supplies, Jose Ayala, vice president of Puerto Rico services at Crowley Maritime Corporation, told MSNBC on Thursday.

More than 3,000 are in the port of San Juan alone, he said.

Ayala said the island’s myriad of issues, ranging from communications problems, damaged roads, people unable to make it to their places of work, low diesel were creating a distribution crisis.

Alejandro De La Campa, director of FEMA’s Caribbean Area Division, stressed during the teleconference Thursday that these goods referred to commodities already in ports that local entities and business were not able to access because of complications from the hurricane.

“All FEMA commodities are moving as we receive them, they are being deployed to the distribution centers as we receive them. They are being deployed,” he said, adding that “not a single trailer” from FEMA of other federal responders were being held at Puerto Rico’s ports or airports.

Mariana Atencio reported from San Juan, Puerto Rico, and Daniella Silva reported from New York City.

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