HOUSTON — Sitting on Mary Maddox’s again porch, which flooded with 22 inches of water when Hurricane Harvey hit almost two months in the past, is a Woman of the Evening plant from Puerto Rico that a pal gave her. Ever since Hurricane Maria ravaged the island, she says, she has paused on the blooming plant when she passes it, rubbing a leaf and saying a prayer for these nonetheless with out water or electrical energy.
Typically, the prayer is accompanied by frustration with President Trump, whom she voted for and who visited this neighborhood after Harvey.
“He really made me mad,” stated Maddox, 70, who accused Trump of making an attempt to pit these on the mainland in opposition to Puerto Ricans, despite the fact that they’re all Individuals.
“I don’t know,” stated her husband, Fred Maddox, 75. “I think he’s trying.”
He continued: “It’s a problem, but they need to handle it. It shouldn’t be up to us, really. I don’t think so. They’re sitting back, they’re taking the money, they’re taking a little under the table. He’s trying to wake them up: Do your job. Be responsible.”
The divide within the Maddox family is one enjoying out throughout the nation, as those that voted for the president debate how a lot assist the federal authorities ought to give Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory and not using a voting member of Congress that’s not allowed to vote in presidential elections.
Some supporters of the president, like Fred Maddox, agree with Trump that Puerto Rico’s infrastructure was frail earlier than the storm; that the disaster was worsened by an absence of management there; and that the federal authorities ought to restrict its involvement within the rebuilding effort, which is able to probably value billions of . However others, like Mary Maddox, are appalled by how the president talks about Puerto Rico and say the US has an ethical obligation to maintain its residents.
A survey launched final week by the Kaiser Household Basis discovered that a majority of Individuals consider that the federal authorities has been too gradual to reply in Puerto Rico and that the island nonetheless isn’t getting the assistance it wants. However the outcomes largely broke alongside social gathering traces: Whereas almost three-quarters of Democrats stated the federal authorities isn’t doing sufficient, virtually three-quarters of Republicans stated it’s.
It has been two months since Hurricane Harvey hit Texas and Gulf Coast states, and greater than a month since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico.
On Oct. three — two weeks after the storm — Trump toured a neighborhood exterior San Juan, Puerto Rico, and has repeatedly proclaimed, in opposition to a lot proof, that his administration had a “tremendous” response to Maria. He gave his administration a “10” throughout a White Home look with Puerto Rico’s governor this week. “I think we did a fantastic job, and we’re being given credit,” he stated.
Actually, circumstances stay dire all through a lot of the island. Almost 80 p.c of Puerto Ricans nonetheless lack electrical energy, and 30 p.c would not have entry to scrub ingesting water.
Right here within the Maddoxes’ neighborhood of Sageglen, in contrast, life is slowly returning to regular. On Sept. 2, simply after the storm, Trump briefly toured Sageglen — a middle-class enclave on the southern fringe of Houston — and introduced in a cul-de-sac piled with Sheetrock particles and trash luggage: “These are people that have done a fantastic job holding it together.”
There’s nonetheless a near-constant sound of development within the neighborhood, which is crammed with ranch-style and modest two-story properties. However there are now not mountains of particles on the curbs, due to the native municipal utility district, which shared the price of removing with the Federal Emergency Administration Company. There are brand-new vehicles sitting in a number of driveways, due to car-insurance firms shortly totaling flooded automobiles and native sellers providing flood offers.
These within the neighborhood with out flood insurance coverage have been capable of apply for and obtain help from FEMA — together with the Maddoxes, who lately had $14,000 in federal cash land of their checking account.
Within the almost 20 years that the Maddoxes have lived of their ranch home on Sagelink Circle, that they had seen no want for flood insurance coverage. And, after lately serving to considered one of their daughters pay authorized charges for a divorce, the couple’s financial savings isn’t what it as soon as was.
“I’m very appreciative to FEMA. I really, really am,” stated Mary Maddox, who has been married for greater than 50 years and raised 5 kids. “I was just so excited when I saw that they loved us.”
‘They don’t stay disadvantaged’
On a current afternoon on close by Sagelink Courtroom, David Hogg stopped by the driveway of his neighbor Donna Ramirez, exhibiting her the newest handful of screws he had collected from the cul-de-sac.
Hogg and his spouse, Patsy Hogg, have had flood insurance coverage for many years after watching water come dangerously near flooding the primary ground of their two-story house quickly after they moved to the neighborhood within the late 1970s. They now pay about $450 per 12 months.
Ramirez and her husband additionally stated they thought that that they had flood insurance coverage on their house, which they purchased a 12 months in the past, solely to study weeks after the storm that they didn’t.
To Ramirez, the function of the federal government is to broadly coordinate reduction efforts and be certain that insurance coverage firms are fulfilling their obligations to policyholders, however that individuals ought to take private duty for his or her property or look to church buildings or charities for help.
“Do other people think that other people should pay for me to fix my house? Because it’s not their fault that I flooded,” stated Ramirez, taking a break from sorting via soggy analysis paperwork in her storage.
Ramirez, who describes herself as a “throw-the-dice-type voter,” stated she reluctantly voted for Trump in November — though her assist deepened after assembly Trump in her cul-de-sac a couple of month in the past.
“In person, he’s totally different than on TV, and he gave us just such a feeling of confidence, like we weren’t forgotten about,” stated Ramirez, who has one grown daughter. “He talked directly at a lot of people in the crowd, and his word for me was: ‘Don’t lose hope, you’re going to be all right.’ ”
Ramirez worries that when the federal government makes cash simply out there after a pure catastrophe, there’s a chance for corruption and an opportunity that some individuals will take greater than they want. And he or she thinks that media protection of the disaster in Puerto Rico has lacked context, particularly in reporting that just about all the island remains to be with out electrical energy.
“Guess what? There’s a big chunk of the population that lives without electricity all the time,” Ramirez stated, saying he was sharing the experiences of a pal who has household on the island.
Hogg, 76, nodded his head in settlement: “They never had it. Never had it.”
“They don’t live deprived, because it’s a beautiful environment,” she continued. “The weather is nice, the climate is good most of the time, so it’s different from here . . . It works there because of the climate. It wouldn’t work here.”
About 96 p.c of Puerto Rico’s electrical energy prospects had service earlier than Maria made landfall, in line with federal knowledge; lots of the relaxation had no energy due to Hurricane Irma two weeks earlier.
Ramirez stated the federal government ought to encourage these dwelling within the hardest-hit areas to maneuver to the mainland, out of the direct path of hurricanes and into communities with more-reliable infrastructure.
“I object. I object. They should stay where they are and fix their own country up,” Hogg responded softly, shaking his head, wrongly referring to the U.S. territory as a separate nation.
Later within the day, as Hogg and his spouse sat of their storage workshop, they once more debated the place the federal government’s function begins and ends. Patsy Hogg stated she’s making an attempt to determine the place, precisely, she stands. She’s apprehensive in regards to the ever-growing nationwide debt, however she will be able to’t stand to see individuals endure.
Each are longtime Republicans, though recently they think about themselves before everything “Trumpsters.” Patsy Hogg described assembly the president and his spouse, who gave her a hug, as a blessing from God.
“We love Trump,” she stated. “We voted for him. We pray for him every day.”
The couple agrees that the president must be extra cautious with what he says on Twitter, particularly in relation to Puerto Rico.
However David Hogg, a retired electrical engineer who as soon as labored at NASA, additionally stated that Puerto Ricans’ “lack of responsibility is not an emergency on my part.” The identical goes for Texans with out flood insurance coverage, he stated.
His spouse frowned, stared at him and requested: “So you have no mercy?”
“Uh-uh. No mercy,” he stated. “They should do what I do: Spend the money, get insurance.”
Patsy Hogg stated considered one of their buddies at their Baptist church, a retired single girl, didn’t have flood insurance coverage when her two-story townhouse flooded and that FEMA shortly supplied her with some cash.
“I was glad that they did that. That made me feel good,” Patsy Hogg stated. “She’s certainly not destitute, but I’m just really glad that they did that. If that’s my tax dollars at work, I’m okay with that.”
She then got here to her husband’s protection: “And he’s not really as hardhearted as he sounds. He was very glad when he learned that they had given her money.”
The Maddoxes, who stay within the subsequent cul-de-sac over from the Hoggs, have been away from house when Trump visited. They struggled to get again into the neighborhood till after his motorcade had left.
The couple, each “cradle Catholics” and longtime Republicans, can not bear in mind a time after they disagreed about politics, like they do now. Mary Maddox has hit the purpose the place she believes Trump must be impeached and changed with somebody who will unite and heal the nation.
“I get so disgusted,” she stated, sitting at her eating room desk. “He is like a 13-year-old girl, tweeting and everything. I just want him to act his age and be nice to people and bring the country together. I voted for the man, but I’m just — I want our country to be friendly.”
Fred Maddox, who’s retired from inspecting business airline planes, says he doesn’t agree with lots of the issues Trump flippantly says, however he nonetheless believes within the president and would vote for him once more. He likes having a businessman in workplace, particularly one who’s not afraid to talk the painful reality — even when meaning publicly calling out Puerto Rican officers throughout a disaster.
“It’s time,” he stated, “we had someone in there to fight for us.”
Emily Guskin contributed to this report.