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Democratic Leadership Emphasize Continuation of Puerto Rico’s Relief Efforts

Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Democratic House WHIP Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD), spoke out about the pressing issues surrounding Puerto Rico.


Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) addresses Puerto Rico issues

On October 4, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) participated in a town hall debate forum on CNN where she discussed several current issues. Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis was brought up by both CNN journalist Chris Cuomo and a question made by one of the attendees.

Pelosi was asked of the efforts that the democratic leadership are prepared to do to stop this humanitarian crisis. The attendee also asked about the process of restructuring Puerto Rico’s debt and the ability to get Puerto Rico back on its feet.

When addressing the relief efforts, Pelosi stated that “in terms of the immediate need, which is the water and the light, I spent the afternoon at FEMA headquarters today, and they gave a report about the progress that they have made. But no matter how much progress you made, there’s still a long way to go in terms of meeting the needs of the people there. We did pass a bill at the end of the last week for the first order of funding to go. We will pass another one probably within the next week for more resources to go.”

Additionally, Leader Pelosi emphasized that the military are there, and that is important because “The military knows how to set up places for people to live, to get supplies to people. They have helicopters. They have equipment. And they’re very good at what they do in terms of disaster assistance.”

“We weren’t there soon enough”, Pelosi adds, “We have to be there in a fuller way. If you go to FEMA, they’ll tell you we’re up to date on everything that we should have done by now. And as I said, that may be perfectly true, but it’s also true, as you’ve described, that people there are still without complete access to food, to water. And not just bottled water, but water for all purposes, as well as communication and the return of the energy, the generators and the communication system will go a long way.”

Emphasizing once again, as many Democrats have during this time, Pelosi reminds the public that “this is a challenge to the conscience of America. These are American citizens. And when a natural disaster falls upon any of us, it is the responsibility of the government to come to the aid of the people to protect them. That’s part of our — that’s our primary responsibility, really. Without that, what else matters?”

After addressing the relief efforts, Pelosi talks about the debt situation in Puerto Rico and the letter that they received from the Financial Oversight and Management Board earlier this week. Pelosi stated: “Now, on the money side, we have a letter from the board that was established re-establish the financial integrity, economic integrity of Puerto Rico. When I say integrity, success. That board has just written to us, the leaders, four leaders, asking us to pass a law to enable the Treasury Department to lend money to Puerto Rico to get through its governance until it can get back on its feet.”

Leader Pelosi in her final remarks about the Puerto Rico situation notes the health needs in Puerto Rico. Pelosi stated: “to address the health needs in Puerto Rico, which we have an important, shall we say, appropriation that we have to make immediately to meet what is called the Medicaid clip. I mean, maybe more than most people want to know about the subject, but there are all kinds of ways that we’re coming at it, with the disaster assistance, with the health needs, and then to help the board do its job.”

Following the town hall event, yesterday Leader Pelosi gave a press conference giving an update of her meeting with FEMA. Pelosi calls on Congress to act on this humanitarian crisis and the long-term economic recovery by stating the following: “Congress must move swiftly for the debt relief supplemental for all of the area — for Florida as well, got hit. And also we have the Medicaid cliff that we have to address, when it comes to Puerto Rico specifically. But for both islands — for both territories, we must make a long-term commitment to not only relief recovery, but ongoing, long- term economic recovery.”

Democratic House WHIP, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) addresses the aid package for Puerto Rico.

In an interview with CNN yesterday, Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD) was asked if he could foresee any issues in getting an aid package passed for Puerto Rico. Hoyer stated: “I hope not. They’ve sent down $29 billion about half is debt forgiveness which will give the FEMA some additional head room. But the fact of the matter is we’re going to need much more than that over the long term. But this tranche is a significant figure and I expect more to come. Hopefully, they will not be burdened down with politically controversial items that the majority may want to put in these bills. I hope that’s the case. This is a humanitarian crisis.”

Hoyer makes a very interesting comparison between the administration’s efforts to aid Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory, stating that “it’s interesting, in terms of the figures you gave, within two weeks of Haiti’s earthquake, we had 22,000 military personnel on the ground.”

“We need more people on the ground. We need more resources allocated. Frankly, the military is the one institution in our country and, indeed, in the world, who could respond to deal with the crises that you have displayed on your screen”, Hoyer adds, “And we need to be in the rural areas. So many are going to San Juan. San Juan has got resources, and is getting up to speed, but it is the rural areas in which most of the Puerto Rico lives that are in such crisis, without sufficient water and sufficient food and without sufficient sanitation.”

When asked about his opinion on what needs to be done, Hoyer stated: “My own view is the president needs to authorize both FEMA, but also the armed forces, which do have the resources, do have the money, to respond to the crisis now. And certainly, we’re going to pay for it. That $29 billion, and we’ve done billions before that, is a start. But it’s going to take time to assess.”

As an attempt to get better communication from the Puerto Rican government, Hoyer stated that “I’m going to urge him [the Governor of Puerto Rico] to, as accurately and fully explain what is needed, what is being done, but more importantly, what is not being done to save lives, to intervene in areas that otherwise are inaccessible. And he has to energize both the Puerto Rican infrastructure and resources in terms of human capital on Puerto Rico, but it is the armed forces of the United States, in my opinion, that has the capacity to put in the kind of resources necessary to save lives, and to stabilize communities.”

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