Texas and Puerto Rico both got hit very hard last year by major hurricanes. But the federal government moved a lot more quickly to get help to Texas. In a new paper, I document the difference and explore the reasons. Although I won't go into all the details here, this is a situation people need to know about.
This table gives a sense of the difference, though there's a more extensive table in the paper.
FEMA says it poured just as many resources into Puerto Rico as Texas and that the response was hindered because they were already stretched thin by other disasters and had to contend with difficult logistic problems. I am willing to believe they made an equal effort. But an equal effort really wasn't enough — not when Puerto Rico's needs were so much greater. For instance, although the number of direct deaths from Harvey and Maria were similar (and relatively small), estimates are that another 500-1,000 people died in Puerto Rico because they were left on their own so long, without access to electricity, drinking water, or medical services.
Why didn't the federal government rise to the occasion in Puerto Rico and make the effort necessary to muster additional resources and overcome logistic problems? It seems to me there were two basic reasons:
The worst thing, perhaps, is that so few people on the mainland are paying attention to what's going on in Puerto Rico — let alone how we can better prepare for the future. We all need to take seriously the plight of our fellow citizens.
Cross-posted from Legal Planet.