WASHINGTON (AP) - The Trump administration says its relief efforts in Puerto Rico are succeeding, but people on the island say help is scarce and disorganized while food supplies are dwindling in some remote towns eight days after Hurricane Maria.
President Donald Trump on Thursday cleared the way for more supplies to head to Puerto Rico by waiving restrictions on foreign ships delivering cargo to the island.
Trump tweeted later that "FEMA & First Responders are doing a GREAT job in Puerto Rico." He also took issue with media coverage of the administration's response, writing, "Wish press would treat fairly!"
President Donald Trump's homeland security adviser is defending Trump's decision to hold off on waiving a law that requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports to be carried by U.S.-flagged vessels.
Trump waived the requirement Thursday, more than a week after Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico.
Tom Bossert, Trump's adviser, says the U.S. government had the capacity to meet the island's needs after the storm hit on Sept. 20.
Bossert says he wouldn't have recommended that the Jones Act be waived, but then Puerto Rico's governor asked for the restriction to be lifted.
Trump has waived the law for 10 days to allow foreign ships to deliver food, water and other supplies to the U.S. territory.
The U.S. military is sending a three-star general to Puerto Rico to help direct the response to the hurricane as the Defense Department works to send several thousand more troops to the island.
Lt. Gen. Jeff Buchanan, commander of U.S. Army North, will be arriving in Puerto Rico on Thursday evening.
John Cornelio, spokesman for U.S. Northern Command, said Buchanan is being sent to the island to better assess the situation so the military can provide the highest level of support for the disaster.
He cited problems getting supplies and aid to residents. He said 12 of the 29 bridges that have been assessed are closed. Another 65 are damaged.
Cornelio also said the number of open gas stations has increased from about 400 to 676.
Two Republican senators have introduced legislation to permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, a previously obscure law that requires that goods shipped between U.S. ports be carried by U.S.-flagged vessels.
President Donald Trump on Thursday waived the law for 10 days to allow foreign ships to carry cargo to the hurricane-devastated island.
Sens. Sen. John McCain of Arizona and Mike Lee of Utah said the waiver will help, but will not do enough to help Puerto Rico recover and rebuild from Hurricane Maria.
McCain has long pushed to repeal the Jones Act, saying it has outlived its purpose to benefit special interests - U.S. shipping companies and labor unions that say the law supports U.S. jobs.
While he'd prefer full repeal, McCain said the exemption would help Puerto Rico.
President Donald Trump's advisers are sticking up for the response to Hurricane Maria and the devastation in Puerto Rico.
Acting Homeland Security Secretary Elaine Duke told reporters outside the White House Thursday that food, water and fuel shortages on the U.S. island are "the fault of the hurricane" and that "the relief effort is under control."
She and adviser Tom Bossert blamed the media for the impression that the administration responded too slowly to the Sept. 20 storm, which knocked out nearly all power.
Bossert says news of the devastation and frustration on the island isn't so much wrong as it is outdated. The administration waived restrictions Thursday on foreign ships delivering supplies to the island. Bossert adds that most of the island's hospitals there are taking patients.
House Speaker Paul Ryan says federal disaster relief accounts will get a boost of nearly $7 billion dollars by the end of the week to help hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
Ryan says "huge capital injection will occur in two days" to the Federal Emergency Management Agency's disaster relief account. That will help Puerto Rico recover after being walloped by Hurricane Maria.
He says President Donald Trump has waived a matching funds requirement, which means the cash-strapped island won't have to contribute to the initial costs of the federal assistance.
The Wisconsin Republican says he expects the Trump administration to send Congress a request for a long-term recovery package once damage assessments of Puerto Rico are conducted.
Ryan says, "We will quickly act on that request."
He says the priority now is the humanitarian and rescue mission in Puerto Rico.
The Trump administration will waive federal restrictions on foreign ships' transportation of cargo to hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.
White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter Thursday that President Donald Trump has "authorized the Jones Act be waived for Puerto Rico." She says Trump is responding to a request from the governor, and it "will go into effect immediately."
The Jones Act is a little-known federal law that prohibits foreign-flagged ships from shuttling goods between U.S. ports. Republicans and Democrats have pushed Trump to waive the Jones Act, saying it could help get desperately needed supplies delivered to the island more quickly and at less cost.
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