FEMA Officials Say It’s Not Their Job to Distribute Food and Water to Hurricane Victims in Puerto Rico: Report

Yanira Rios collects spring water for use in her house, which is without running water or electricity, in Utuado, Puerto Rico, on Oct. 10, 2017, nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria hit the island. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

Nearly three weeks after Hurricane Maria brought devastation to the island of Puerto Rico, people in the town of Aibonito still have not received any food or water from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. The reason? FEMA said it’s not their job to distribute food and water to the hurricane victims.

Aibonito is located about an hour and a half from the capital city of San Juan. While previous reports said that supplies were unable to be delivered to victims outside the capital because of roads being blocked, producers of The Rachel Maddow Show were able to drive into the town just fine—the roads were clear.


FEMA has been to the town of Aibonito three times, not to deliver supplies, but to help residents in the town fill out paperwork so that they could apply for federal aid. The town still has not received federal aid.

Maddow reported on the situation in Aibonito on Friday. After her report, FEMA officials contacted Maddow and told her they went back to Aibonito over the weekend. During that trip, they still did not bring food or water or supplies to the residents. They met with the mayor so they could “identify the town’s needs and file a report.”

When Maddow asked FEMA what the mayor’s top three needs were, officials did not give Maddow an answer.


They did, however, tell Maddow that it’s not their job to distribute food and water; it’s the mayor’s job.


“Relief supplies are being delivered to regional staging areas, and mayors are largely responsible for arranging pickup and distribution,” the agency told Maddow.

Maddow, like the rest of us, questioned how mayors of towns like Aibonito are supposed to do that on their own “without vehicles or working phones or fuel.”


Maddow reports that less than 60 percent of the American citizens in Puerto Rico have clean water, and 85 percent are still without electricity. The death toll has gone up to 39 and is still rising, because 19 days after the hurricane hit, things have gotten worse, not better.


Even in the accessible towns, there has been little help or relief for the people of Puerto Rico.

And now FEMA, the government agency that is supposed to come in and provide assistance in situations like this, is playing a shell game with the food, water and supplies that could help save people’s lives.



See Rachel Maddow’s full report at MSNBC.

Share This Story

About the author

Monique Judge

News Editor for The Root. I said what I said. Period.