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FEMA, under fire, says Puerto Rico hurricane aid not ending yet

WASHINGTON -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency said Wednesday that it is not cutting off food and water supplies to Puerto Rico at this time, despite reports that it intended to do so. FEMA's reported cutoff plans drew criticism Tuesday from members of Congress and the mayor of the island's largest city. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz said many people in the U.S. territory still need the water and food they have been getting from FEMA more than four months after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.

The mayor said that in recent days officials have had to deliver powered milk and water to some parts of the island, where still about 35 percent of population still has no power.

"There is need still," she told reporters in Washington, where she was attending the State of the Union address as a guest of New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

A letter to FEMA Administrator Brock Long signed by 30 members of Congress said the plan to end deliveries of food and water Wednesday would especially hurt people in remote parts of Puerto Rico.

FEMA spokesman William Booher told The Associated Press that the agency had been evaluating whether enough stores and supermarkets had reopened by Jan. 31 to justify ending distribution of food and water to municipal governments on the island, but he said FEMA is not halting aid yet. He says that decision had not actually been taken but officials mistakenly made the date public this week.

Booher says FEMA is in the process of winding down food and water distribution as local suppliers and markets come back online. FEMA says it will continue to provide assistance to agencies and organizations working in outlying areas.

Puerto Ricans adapt for first Christmas post Hurricane Maria 01:05

The agency says it distributed more than 65 million liters of bottled water and more than 58 million meals and snacks, totaling nearly $2 billion.

Last week, Puerto Rico's governor submitted a revised fiscal plan that estimates the U.S. Caribbean territory's economy will shrink by 11 percent and its population drop by nearly 8 percent next year.

In the months since Hurricane Maria, hundreds of thousands of people living in Puerto Rico have left for the U.S. mainland.

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