After a flurry of bipartisan complaints from members of Congress, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said its plan to end distributing food and water in Puerto Rico would not take effect on Wednesday after all.
“Provision of those commodities will continue,” spokesman William Booher told National Public Radio. Read the full story here.
A different spokesperson, Delyris Aquino-Santiago, had earlier told NPR that it would “officially shut off” its food and water mission on the island on Wednesday and hand its remaining food and water supplies over to the Puerto Rican government to finish distributing. But Booher said that date “was mistakenly provided.”
The agency has been working on that transition but has not made it final, he said, adding that in the meantime, FEMA will continue providing food and water to communities on the island that need them.
The island is still recovering from devastating Hurricane Maria, which struck in September.
The turnabout came after politicians from both political parties reacted angrily to news of FEMA’s plan and after the Puerto Rican government released a statement saying it had not been informed of the impending change.
On Tuesday, lawmakers called on the agency to reconsider.
During a speech on the Senate floor, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida said he was “absolutely shocked” by FEMA’s decision.
On Tuesday, nine member of Congress from Florida, Nelson and Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, joined other lawmakers to send a letter urging FEMA to keep distributing water and food to Puerto Rico.
“Families will continue to leave the island if their basic needs are not met – the most fundamental of which are food and water,” the letter stated. “We urge you to continue distributing food and water aid in Puerto Rico until the situation on the island has substantially improved.”