Opinion: The US’ Differing Response To Two Hurricanes Is A Problem



Some of the damage done by Hurricane Fiona in Guayama, Puerto Rico

Lily Eagen

It seems like all I can see online right now is people talking about the horrible damage that Hurricane Ian is doing to Florida’s beautiful coastal and inland cities across the state, and videos of that flooding and destruction. 

While this is a huge problem, there’s been another hurricane in the Caribbean: Hurricane Fiona. It hit mainly Puerto Rico and left almost the entire island without power. Although these two hurricanes had similar destructive paths, there have been insanely different responses to the natural disasters.

When Hurricane Maria, a Category 5 hurricane, hit Puerto Rico, it destroyed a majority of the island’s infrastructure, power supply, and defense mechanisms for future storms. Former President Trump’s response to the hurricane was less than stellar, and to this day, the island still hasn’t fully recovered from the hurricane. Trump promised the US territory $90 billion in funding, but Puerto Rico only received $3.3 billion, most of which wasn’t used to actually help people on the island. 

So when Hurricane Fiona, a Category 1 hurricane, hit the island, it did a lot more damage than it should have done. It completely decimated the entire power grid, leaving 1.5 million people without electricity. Even two weeks after the disaster, over 100,000 people are still without power. Additionally, thousands are still without water.

As previously stated, Puerto Rico’s infrastructure never fully recovered from Hurricane Maria. For reference, this hurricane occurred over 4 years ago. This was made worse by Hurricane Fiona. Although Biden has promised the island $60 million to help repair the damage that these two hurricanes created, is that really enough?

Meanwhile, in Florida, the effects of Hurricane Ian were devastating for the state. The Category 4 hurricane swept the peninsula, leaving thousands of people without power, food, and stable housing. Obviously, this is a huge issue for Florida and for the US. But the response to this hurricane has been vastly different to that of Hurricane Fiona. Images of the destruction Ian caused are all over the news, with the viral flamingos hiding in the bathroom and sharks swimming in the flood water. 

There are hundreds of articles from varying news sources online right now, but there are much less on Fiona’s destructive path. Additionally, the government funding for disaster help has been insane, with the Biden Administration approving a whooping $5.2 billion for infrastructure repair alone. 

The varying responses to these two natural disasters demonstrates the racism that is still in the heart of our country. Florida is getting billions of dollars more in damage funding then Puerto Rico got for a much worse hurricane. Maria and Fiona combined created over $90 billion worth of damage, with a majority of it not being repaired yet. Ian created over $47 billion worth of damage, which is horrible, but much less than the damage done to Puerto Rico. 

Then why give Puerto Rico less money? Why not give them the financial aid that they so desperately need? Some people might say it’s because Florida is a state and Puerto Rico is a territory, but the US still has an obligation to give disaster funding to both areas. 

The real reason is the racism that has hurt Puerto Rico for decades. Florida has a mainly white population, while Puerto Rico has a mainly latinx population. It’s not difficult to see why the government is giving more money to Florida than to Puerto Rico. It’s just difficult for some people to understand, since disaster funding seems like an instance where race shouldn’t matter in getting the help you so desperately need. Unfortunately, this is the world that we live in today, and in bringing more light to this issue, maybe we can give more help to Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and electrical issues.

Here are some things that you can do to help Puerto Rico:

  • Contact state senators and representatives for New York state and pressure them help the people who had to flee
  • Puerto Rico because of the hurricane
  • Donate to groups helping Puerto Rico’s recovery from these hurricanes
  • Spread awareness about this issue