President Joe Biden pledged support for Puerto Rico in the wake of Hurricane Fiona and, in the process, highlighted a past connection of his political career to the Puerto Rican community.
President Biden, alongside first lady Dr. Jill Biden, visited the American territory on Monday, meeting community leaders and families impacted by the storm. Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18, soon after it was upgraded from a tropical storm to a hurricane. That same day, officials reported that the storm had knocked out power on the entire island, with the destruction prompting Biden to declare a state of emergency.
Gathering for a press conference in the city of Ponce, President Biden pledged $60 million in relief funding for Puerto Rico, as part of his Bipartisan Infrastructure Law’s allowances for disaster recovery and preparedness for future storms. During his speech, he also said he had a past connection with the Puerto Rican community in his earlier political days.
“I was sort of raised in the Puerto Rican community at home politically,” Biden said.
Biden did not explain specifically what he meant by the comment in the rest of his speech. While the White House has also not commented on the matter, a look at the president’s past political career reveals a potential connection.
Biden’s first brush with elected office came in 1970 when he was elected to the County Council in Delaware’s New Castle County, the northernmost in the small state and home to its largest city, Wilmington. This was two years before Biden was first elected as a U.S. senator for Delaware. New Castle County boasts the densest Puerto Rican population in the state, particularly in Wilmington and the neighboring city of Elsmere.
Newsweek reached out to the White House for comment.
Prior to Biden’s address, Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi spoke and urged the president to expand his pledge of support to cover 100 percent of the disaster response costs for the territory for 180 days, up from the initial promise of 30 days. Pierluisi further urged Biden to treat the residents of Puerto Rico the same as he would any other U.S. citizens.
“I’m confident we’re going to be able to do all you want, governor,” Biden said later, according to Politico. “We are going to make sure you get every single dollar promised.”
The current death toll from Hurricane Fiona in Puerto Rico stands at 25. Experts, however, warn that the actual toll could be much higher due to the fact that more remote regions are still inaccessible. As of Monday, over 100,000 residents on the island are still without power.
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