Florida Gov. Rick Scott has been a valuable resource for the Trump Administration as they have grappled with the devastation in Puerto Rico.
On Friday, for example, Scott talked to President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence about what he saw when he went last week — a prelude to President Trump’s own visit.
Yet Gov. Scott’s commitment to the suffering people of the commonwealth is not complete. In fact, it’s just getting started. He’s talking to FEMA Administrator Brock Long “almost every day.”
But words and high-level conversations are not enough.
To that end, a visit to Jacksonville Wednesday afternoon — where Scott surveyed a shipment of goods to the island, and discussed the recovery effort, one that Florida — especially Jacksonville — is playing a unique role in.
Gov. Scott has been the point man for administration efforts, and Jacksonville — whose port handles most of the goods going to the commonwealth — is uniquely positioned as a beachhead for the recovery.
Leaving JAXPORT on Wednesday: a warehouse full of water from FEMA and JEA equipment, which will be there to greet restoration workers as they push to help restore the island’s devastated power grid.
“95 percent of people are out of power,” Scott said. “Less than a third have cell service. It’s pretty devastating.”
Scott described the destruction on the island poignantly by way of recapping his visit last week, saying that a historically “lush … green environment” was left “without a tree standing.”
Scott noted that he told Puerto Rico’s Governor that “whatever you need, we’ll be there for you.”
To that end, Florida is making materiel contributions to the effort: 50 highway patrol officers to help with law enforcement; an FDLE incident management team; a state of emergency in Florida to work with Puerto Ricans who are coming to Florida, including those who are coming to two disaster relief centers in Miami and another at the Orlando airport.
“We’re going to do everything we can to take care of anybody who’s coming here, either permanently or for a short period of time,” Scott said.
“Your heart goes out to them … you just feel so sorry for them. But Florida’s a state where we take care of people, we work well together,” Scott added.
Despite a direct question and a direct follow-up during the gaggle, Gov. Scott was reluctant to directly address President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico, which included the President tossing paper towels into a crowd of Puerto Ricans and reminding locals that Hurricane Maria is going to impact the federal budget.
Nor did he answer a question about President Trump’s floated proposal to wipe out Puerto Rico’s external debt.
Scott did paint a picture of a robust federal response, however, saying that when he was there Thursday, he saw FEMA and the National Guard in action, as he met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello and his team.
“Everybody is working really hard,” Scott said, noting the logistical challenges that are unique to Puerto Rico, such as being on a mountainous island with many washed out roads and a “staggering” amount of debris — a condition that precludes crews arriving out of state to help with power restoration, a job in Florida that saw 60,000 workers after Hurricane Irma.
“It’s a herculean effort to get the power back on there,” Scott added.
Scott noted that, when he was at the White House Friday, the President wanted to make sure the commonwealth had the resources it needs.
“He was asking me questions about what I saw when I was there,” Scott said.