In making federal hurricane aid requests, Rossello said on “Squawk Box” he has yet to get a commitment for new loans to help shoulder the cost of the massive cleanup and eventual rebuilding. He said Puerto Rico expects “equal treatment” to hurricane-stricken Florida and Texas when it comes to allocating relief resources.
Before the devastating storm, which struck eight days ago, Puerto Rico was facing a financial crisis. The island’s government was in the midst of negotiations with creditors to restructure a portion of its $73 billion in debt, which the previous governor declared unpayable.
The 38-year-old governor — son of former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello — is president of the New Progressive Party, which advocates statehood for the U.S. territory.
Getting relief to the island has been difficult because supplies can only transported by air or sea. In a phone interview with CNBC, Rossello said the deliveries are getting better.
Rossello said Puerto Rico’s power grid is destroyed, leaving virtually the entire island in the dark. Diesel fuel, which is desperately needed to run generators for emergency services such as hospitals, is scarce.
The communications infrastructure — servicing landlines and cellphones — has also been decimated. Rossello said he has deployed “runners” to report back on the needs of the various towns and cities. He said he’s also “personally deploying” satellite phones to local mayors.
He said the Federal Emergency Management Agency has been responsive to the plight of Puerto Rico with federal and local first-responders working as “one team.”
Rossello said he spoke to President Donald Trump late Wednesday, and that the White House and Congress have been “responsive.”
Earlier this week, Trump defended his administration’s handling of recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. The president, who plans to travel to the island on Tuesday of next week, praised Rossello’s response to the storm and the unfolding humanitarian crisis.
Maria smashed into Puerto Rico in the early hours of Sept. 20 as a powerful Category 4 hurricane with 150 mph winds.
— Associated Press contributed to this report.