On November 17, 2017, Ricardo Ramos stepped down as the executive director of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA). Governor Ricardo Rosselló quickly accepted his resignation and noted that controversies connected to Ramos’s decisions post-Maria had become a distraction. Once he appointed an interim replacement, Rosselló reemphasized that the goal is to restore electricity to 95% of PREPA’s customers by Christmas. Is this objective feasible? The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, as noted in previous posts, has made it clear that they expect to restore power to most Puerto Ricans by February 2018.
In today’s graph, we chart the percentage of electricity generated by PREPA from September 5, 2017 – the day before Hurricane Irma skirted the island’s northeast coast – to November 17.
The data before September 29, 2017 was collected by the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office for Infrastructure Security and Energy Restoration. The rest has been made public in the Puerto Rican’s Government Portal – StatusPR. This is not to say that this portal’s information is accurate. For instance, on November 15 it reported that PREPA’s electricity production was at 50% but the information did not take into account a power outage that reduced production to around 20%, increasing to 37% by that night.
As of today, November 18, PREPA’s electricity generation is still under 50%. It is not clear how many Puerto Ricans actually have electricity at home, as PREPA and the Puerto Rican government claim that they can’t provide an accurate estimate. The U.S. Department of Energy on November 16 noted that 57 out of 78 municipalities “are partially energized or have energized facilities”.
Many Puerto Ricans, especially in the island’s interior, have had no power for over 70 days.
On October 18, 2017, President Donald Trump met with Puerto Rico’s Governor, Ricardo Rossello, to discuss the island’s recovery efforts after Hurricanes Irma and Maria pummeled the island . Shortly after the meeting, they took questions from reporters. One of these reporters asked President Trump to use a 10 point scale to rate the White House’s response to Puerto Rico’s woes.
Although Governor Rossello’s comments made it clear that the island was facing a serious humanitarian catastrophe and that Puerto Rico needed even more federal resources, the President gave the federal government’s efforts a perfect 10 out of 10.
Do Americans agree with President’s Trump’s score? Since Hurricane Harvey swept through Texas and Louisiana, many opinion polls have been asking Americans what they think of President Trump’s or the federal government’s disaster relief efforts. The most recent FoxNews poll, conducted on 22-24 October 2017, did not ask respondents whether or not they agreed with President’s Trump’s evaluation. It it did however ask them to “rate the Trump administration’s response to recent hurricanes” in Puerto Rico, Florida and Houston.
As noted in the graph below, the Trump administration earned higher marks for its response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma than Hurricane Maria.
The next graph breaks down these numbers along respondents’ political leanings. Rather than looking at the response to Houston or Florida, let’s focus on their opinions of the Trump administration’s handling of the situation in Puerto Rico.
In conclusion, it is clear that a majority of Americans believe that the Trump administration’s reactions to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria are far from perfect. But partisanship does play role in how Americans rate the government’s efforts.
This short analysis raises three questions:
- If Trump’s supporters give the Trump administration a more positive rating, are they be willing to increase disaster relief spending for Puerto Rico? Experts believe that it will cost between $45-$95 billion to rebuild the island.
- How stable are Americans’ opinions? In other words, have Americans’ opinion fluctuated from early October when the U.S. media paid close attention to Puerto Rico’s post-Maria challenges? Similarly, will American opinion change as as the situation in the island receives less media coverage?
- Finally, how do Puerto Ricans living in the mainland rate the Trump administration’s efforts? How does their opinions compare to other Latinos’ and Latinas’ views of the situation?
We will answer some of these questions in upcoming posts. But for now, what do you think of the Trump administration’s efforts? Do you agree with President Trump’s rating or are you more critical? Let us know.