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Trump to Request $29 Billion Bumper Emergency Relief Package for Puerto Rico | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Damaged electrical installations are seen after the area was hit by Hurricane Maria en Guayama, Puerto Rico September 20, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Garcia Rawlins

After having visited the storm-hit US island, United States President Donald Trump is expected to present a request to Congress for a $29 billion package of emergency relief for Puerto Rico, officials told AFP on Wednesday.

No specific details were given as to when the request would come about, but Republicans suggested a package will most likely be approved by mid October.

In the wake of hurricane Maria, Trump will ask for a package that includes $12.77 in disaster relief and a $16 billion bailout to keep a critical flood insurance program running.

When visiting the island struck by the monster storm, Trump shook hands with storm survivors, lobbed rolls of paper towels into a crowd and tried to slap down critics who judged his administration’s response to the disaster too slow.

Trump also sent financial markets fluttering when he suggested Puerto Rico’s $70 billion-plus debt would have to be wiped out.

Markets reacted poorly to the comments — which were quickly walked back by White House officials.

Investors holding Puerto Rico’s debt have been in a long tussle to minimize their losses.

After Trump’s remarks, bonds due to mature in 2035 traded at 32.25 cents on the dollar, down from 44 cents on Tuesday.

After falling into recession a decade ago, Puerto Rico debt-financed its budget. US lawmakers last year put the island’s finances under federal administration, suspending lawsuits from creditors, but legal battles have continued.

The package is significantly larger than the $15 billion hurricane relief package for Texas after Hurricane Harvey, but is likely to be only a fraction of what the island needs.

The debt relief portion is expected to come with no conditions attached, but may include recommendations to reform a flood insurance program that was due to run out of cash by the end of the month.