On March 25, The Washington Post reported that almost 1.3 million people in Puerto Rico are facing a new crisis after Congress failed to reauthorize additional food stamps that they had been receiving since the devastating Hurricane Maria ravaged the island in September 2017. The Post also reported that President Donald Trump has privately complained about continuing government aid to Puerto Rico, asking top advisers how he can limit federal support. After the Post's report, CBS, ABC, and NBC nightly and morning news programs failed to report on Puerto Rico’s continued struggles -- as well as Trump’s callous disregard for the plight of struggling Puerto Ricans.
According to the Post, “Congress missed the deadline for reauthorization” of additional food-stamp aid to Puerto Rico in March, meaning “about 43 percent of Puerto Rico’s residents are grappling with a sudden cut to a benefit they rely on for groceries and other essentials.” The island will again need the federal government’s help to “stave off drastic cuts to Medicaid … as well as for the disbursement of billions in hurricane relief aid that has not yet been turned over to the island.” The problems in Puerto Rico are compounded by its lack of statehood; as the article notes, “The island would not need Congress to step in to fund its food-stamp and Medicaid programs if it were a state. For states, the federal government has committed to funding those programs’ needs, whatever the cost and without needing to take a vote.”
Despite Puerto Rico’s struggle to recover from Hurricane Maria, Trump last month “asked top advisers for ways to limit federal support from going to Puerto Rico, believing it is taking money that should be going to the mainland.” According to the article, “Trump sees the island as fundamentally broken and has told advisers that no amount of money will ever fix its systemic problems.” He has complained that “large swaths of the island never had power to begin with” and has “occasionally groused about how ungrateful political officials in Puerto Rico were for the administration’s help.” But as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló has asserted, “the problems of Puerto Rico have a root-cause problem attached to it: We don’t have political power and are not treated as equal citizens.”
Withholding federal aid from Puerto Rico out of contempt for the island has dire implications, yet CBS, ABC, and NBC have all failed to report on the distressing situation Puerto Ricans currently face -- as well as the disdain the president has consistently shown toward the island.
Methodology: Media Matters searched the Nexis transcript database for mentions of “Puerto Rico” or “Hurricane Maria” from 7 a.m. EST on March 25 to 9 a.m. EST March 27 for CBS, NBC, and ABC. We found no mentions on any network.