The Trump administration is reportedly requiring evacuees from the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico to sign agreements that they will reimburse the government with full-fare payments after transport. President Donald Trump has drawn criticism over the pace of relief efforts for the devastated island.
On Sept. 28, the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Consular Affairs disclosed that people who were evacuated from Puerto Rico by government aircraft had to sign a note promising future payment and their passports were being limited as collateral, MarketWatch reports.
"Anyone evacuated on U.S. government coordinated transport, including charter and military flights, must sign an Evacuee Manifest and Promissory Note ... The promissory note obligates an evacuated person to repay the cost of the transportation to the U.S. government," the bureau's website stated.
Evacuees will have to promise to pay for the price of a commercial, one-way economy ticket. The cost will be based on flight costs before Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico and will not be discounted. The State Department will also limit the evacuees' passports to ensure that they follow through on their promissory note.
"In order to obtain a new passport, an evacuee must arrange payment as agreed upon via the promissory note," Consular Affairs said.
On Sept. 20, Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico and several other Caribbean islands. The Category 4 storm crippled Puerto Rico's electrical grid, took out 80 percent of its transmission lines, and left a large portion of the island's inhabitants without drinkable water. On Sept. 25, Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged the U.S. government to provide swift and comprehensive aid.
"Make no mistake -- this is a humanitarian disaster involving 3.4 million U.S. citizens," Rossello said, according to Vox.
It remains unclear how many people in Puerto Rico have been evacuated by the U.S. government. The State Department disclosed that promissory note payments were not being processed, The Hill reports.
"Currently, loan repayments cannot be completed due to ongoing emergencies in the region," the State Department's official website stated. "We will update ... as soon as repayments can be made."
On Sept. 26, Democratic Rep. Nydia M. Velazquez of New York blasted Trump for his administration's response to the crisis in Puerto Rico, Politico reports.
"If you don't take this crisis seriously, this is going to be your Katrina," Velazquez said, referencing the hurricane that devastated Louisiana in 2005.
That same day, Trump asserted that his administration was providing aid to Puerto Rico as fast as it could.
"We've gotten A-pluses on Texas and in Florida, and we will also on Puerto Rico,” Trump said. “But the difference is this is an island sitting in the middle of an ocean. It’s a big ocean, it’s a very big ocean. And we’re doing a really good job."