Trump to request $29 bln for storm-hit Puerto Rico

Trump to request $29 bln for storm-hit Puerto Rico

WASHINGTON:  US President Donald Trump on Wednesday asked Congress for a bumper $29 billion package of emergency relief after Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico.


According to a White House letter, Trump asked for a package that includes $12.77 billion in disaster relief and a $16 billion bailout to keep a critical flood insurance program running.


Top Congressional Republican said the federal government has sent aid to storm-hit regions "but more is clearly needed, and this funding request will help meet that need."


The call for more money comes after Trump visited the US island on Tuesday.


He 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.


But he also raised eyebrows by suggesting residents should be "proud" that Maria did not kill as many people as "a real catastrophe like Katrina" -- which ravaged New Orleans in 2005.


He also foreshadowed a sizable aid program: "I hate to tell you Puerto Rico but you threw our budget a little out of whack," he said, causing awkward looks. "But that's fine."


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.