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Officials say FEMA work in Puerto Rico unaffected by shutdown, but island braces for other hits

"Hamilton" gets ready for Puerto Rico shows

San Juan, Puerto Rico — The prolonged partial government shutdown — the second-longest in U.S. history — has not affected the Federal Emergency Management Agency's post-Hurricane Maria work in Puerto Rico, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and a FEMA spokesperson told CBS News. 

"FEMA programs and services currently operating, including emergency work as well as public infrastructure and mitigation projects, will not be impacted if the shutdown continues throughout this week," a FEMA spokesperson said in a statement to CBS News. "There are no disaster projects on hold presently and we are not aware of any that will have to be put on hold in the near future."  

But the island, which is still recovering from devastating storms, and facing economic turmoil and intensifying crime, may be bracing for more woes in the coming weeks as the ramifications of the impasse in budget negotiations in Washington reach the U.S. territory. 

"In terms of health, in terms of the parks and recreation — it's already starting to affect," San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz told CBS News. "And the warnings are already there."

Puerto Rico is struggling to keep two of its most famous tourist attractions  — the colonial forts of San Felipe del Morro and San Cristóbal in Old San Juan — open. The island's tourism bureau has been footing the bill to keep the federal sites running since the shutdown began by signing two agreements with the National Park Service, which announced it shuttered the sites' visitor centers

The latest deal between the government-owned Puerto Rico Tourism Company and the National Park Service is poised to keep the forts open until January 22. 

"That affects tourism. And people continue to, you know, deposit their trash over there. The municipality is picking it up because we, of course, know that it's important for sanitation purposes and for tourism purposes," Yulín Cruz said. 

And if the White House and congressional leaders continue to be locked in a stalemate over President Trump's unwavering $5.7 billion demand for funds to construct a "steel barrier" along the U.S.-Mexico border, the largest federal food assistance program to the island may run out of funds.  

The Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico — the island's version of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the food stamp program — is a multi-billion dollar program operated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), one of the agencies affected by the shutdown. The popular program provides supplemental income to hundreds of thousands of impoverished Puerto Ricans so they can meet their nutritional needs. 

Glorimar Andújar Matos, secretary of Family Affairs of Puerto Rico, said the program is covered by USDA funds until the end of January. "So, what happens on February 1?" Yulín Cruz asked. 

The USDA press office, which is technically closed during the shutdown, did not respond to an inquiry on any plans to fund the program through February and beyond. 

During a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Rosselló said he was concerned about the detrimental effects the government shutdown could have on FEMA's efforts and other federal support to Puerto Rico. 

"It is a consideration. It is a concern. And it doesn't only affect FEMA, right? It affects a lot of the federal programs that both U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, as well as in the rest in the United States are benefiting (from)," he said. 

CBS News pressed Rosselló on whether he received specific notices that any of FEMA's work has or will be affected by the lapse in federal funding to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the agency's umbrella organization. "Not yet," he replied.  

Yulín Cruz, a progressive firebrand whose scathing rebukes of the Trump administration's handling of Hurricane Maria recovery efforts catapulted her to national fame, said that women on the island will be hurt by Congress' failure to renew funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), which provides protections for sexual assault and domestic violence survivors. 

Echoing remarks by Democrats in the mainland, the mayor faulted the president for the shutdown and accused him of manufacturing a border crisis "that's not there." 

"He doesn't get it. He never got that Maria was not about politics, but it was about saving lives," she said. "He doesn't get that this shutdown is not about him or about politics, it's about really being the best that the United States can be."

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