Sunday, April 21, 2024

Two organizations sue FEMA after agency fails to release information related to Hurricane Maria

A reporting organization and a legal group filed a lawsuit against FEMA yesterday alleging that the agency has failed to release documents they requested detailing FEMA’s emergency relief efforts following Hurricane Maria last year.

“FEMA has tried to escape accountability, dismissing our information requests for nearly six months now and trying to ignore our FOIA petitions,” said Executive Director of CPI Carla Minet in a press release. “That agency is in part responsible for the slow and ineffective recovery process that we have documented and that people have experienced in Puerto Rico, and we want to discover why.”

The Center for Investigative Reporting in Puerto Rico (CPI) and legal organization LatinoJustice say they requested documents back in February and FEMA still has not produced them. The documents include records “relating to FEMA’s activities in Puerto Rico and the agency’s preparations for, and response to, Hurricanes Irma and Maria.”

A report from FEMA in July confirmed the agency was not prepared to deal with the devastation caused by the Category 5 storm, which destroyed much of the island’s infrastructure and resources. In the lawsuit filing, the defendants paint FEMA’s lack of preparation as discriminatory, pointing out that the agency during the same storm season deployed far more workers and resources to Florida and Texas after hurricanes made landfall in those states.

The Trump administration came under fire for its weak response to the hurricanes, which led to hospital closures and power outages across the island for months. Shortly after Maria made landfall, president visited the island and appeared to blame Puerto Rico for throwing the U.S. budget “a little out of whack.”