Trump administration didn't charge people for Puerto Rico evacuations - but it did charge Dominicans

Evacuees have signed 'promissory notes' agreeing to repay the government for travel costs

Lydia Smith
Friday 29 September 2017 10:56 BST
A destroyed home in Wesley Village, Dominica, after Hurricane Maria struck the region
A destroyed home in Wesley Village, Dominica, after Hurricane Maria struck the region (Getty)

President Donald Trump’s administration is not forcing Puerto Rican hurricane victims to pay to be evacuated from the island, contrary to some reports, but evacuees from the island of Dominica will still owe money.

The US State Department requires all US citizens to repay the costs of an evacuation, but this rule only applies to US citizens based internationally.

Puerto Rico is US territory so evacuations do not fall under the department's jurisdiction, officials have explained. Residents on the hurricane-ravaged Caribbean island of Dominica will still have to pay to be evacuated to safety via US-coordinated transport, however.

Dominica was the first island nation hit by the full force of the category-five Hurricane Maria.

Large areas of the island, home to around 71,000 people, have been completely flattened and around 80 per cent of buildings left damaged, with communication lines cut and no running water.

Although the US Department of State evacuated 225 people from the Caribbean island, most signed “promissory notes” agreeing to repay the government for travel costs, a source told The Hill.

The costs are based on the “price of the last commercial one-way full-fare economy ticket prior to the crisis”, according to the State Department’s website.

“Evacuees who board US government coordinated transports are required to reimburse the US government for their evacuation as well as organise further travel onwards from their safe haven,” it states.

“At the moment, the safe haven is Martinique with outward flights that are overwhelmed by evacuees from Dominica. Onward travel arrangements will be the responsibility of the traveller.”

The policy applies to anyone evacuated on transport coordinated by the US government, including charter and military flights.

It added that the “loan repayments” cannot currently be completed due to ongoing emergencies.

A spokesperson for the department told The Hill some repayments owed by Dominicans were being waived because of medical emergencies.

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