Members of Congress Continue to Press for Action on Puerto Rico Humanitarian Crisis

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives came back from Columbus Day weekend recess and continued to press the White House for action on disaster relief efforts for Puerto Rico and other states. The following Representatives gave remarks on the House floor on Puerto Rico: Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA), and Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX).

Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-OH):

Mr. Speaker, what a privilege it has been for me to know and do my best to help community leaders in Lorain, Ohio, who have been engaged in the Puerto Rican relief effort following Hurricane Maria. Lorain Councilman Angel Arroyo, along with many of our constituents, have been organizing local shipments to Puerto Rico. Last week, working with celebrities like Bravo TV star Bethenny Frankel, Councilman Arroyo helped arrange seven truckloads of aid that were flown in on a private charter airplane. Human stories from relatives across that vast region focused on the tragic lack of aid, especially within the vast interior parts of that island.

Our district has the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in Ohio, and families are very worried. FEMA is not doing its job, and the Trump administration should get an F for all of the citizens of this country that are being left behind. Victor Leandry of the Lorain-based nonprofit El Centro noted that his sister and brother-in-law live in a smaller city, Ponce, and, as of this weekend, they still had no power.

I include in the RECORD a letter from a constituent’s family member detailing the dire situation: no water, no electricity, no radio contact, with families’ life savings destroyed, their crops and their land as well. We need to address the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico. What is happening there is un-American. The Trump administration better wake up and help the citizens of this country.

Hi

My parents live in Lares Puerto Rico in the Barrio called Palmallanos. November will make two years since they moved back ‘‘home’’. They worked since day one to get their land aka finca to what it was when my grandparents owned the home. They did a great job. They had Banana and Avocado trees. Had just planted roughly 200 coffee trees and couldn’t wait to watch them grow. They had planted different herbs as well as squash and beans. All of that was lost on September 20th when Hurricane Maria ripped straight down the island. I could not get in touch with my parents for two long weeks. Finally I received the call I had been waiting for. While my parents are safe and their house is intact, they lost everything on their land. They had some flooding in the home and a shed they had their washer and dryer in had its roof ripped off and flooding.

The river that runs through their land rose so much that my dad could not sleep concerned that it would rise to their home. Fortunately it did not, however due to the rains and winds the house did get flooded, but they were able to work for hours nonstop to get the water out. After two weeks they are still without running water, electricity and phone service. They drive 30–40 minutes to get cell Service as well as go get water. They have to take whatever containers they have to fill up. They have received no additional assistance. They went to the market and were lucky enough to get a bag of rice and some canned goods. They have enough propane to have one warm meal a day and the rest of the time they eat whatever they have in cans or other non perishable items.

They boil water to drink and shower with rain water. As for eating any dairy or meat, well they haven’t in two weeks. They are concerned to eat any meat they could get from the store for fear of getting sick due to no electricity anywhere and the inability to keep anything cold. When getting gas, they waited in line for 2.5 hours and a letter they had mailed me on 9/24 finally arrived on 10/6. They have not received mail and are not able to get packages. I asked if they wanted to come and stay with me and my family and they said no. Why? Well, they are afraid of leaving their home due to looting. They want to keep what they have left. I know my parents are strong people, but honestly, I don’t know how much longer anyone in their situation can make it. Prayers for Puerto Rico.

Seny Kerfonta

Rep. John Garamendi (D-CA):

We think about the recent hurricanes as they slammed into Houston, Florida, the Keys; and Hurricane Maria, as that hurricane devastated Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. These traumatic disasters are now in our memory, but they are also our reality. In California today, in my district, and in my colleague MIKE THOMPSON’s district, thousands of homes have been burned to the ground and people have died. These disasters are not new to America, and, over the years, we have set up a mechanism to deal with them. That mechanism is the firefighters across this Nation who respond, the emergency plans that have been put in place.

I know during my period as insurance commissioner in California, I would often arrive at these disasters, some of which go back more than 30 or 40 years, and console people who will have lost their home and attempt to deal with their insurance issues. And I would always remind those who were in the path of these flames, or hurricanes, or tornadoes, to be prepared; that Boy Scout motto: Be Prepared. And now, in California, the same message goes out by the first responders and, indeed, by myself here on the floor of the House of Representatives: Be prepared. Be prepared to evacuate. Think about what it is you need to take ahead of time, those important papers, those scrapbooks, those photo albums, the dog, the cat; and when the time to go arrives, when that message arrives on your cell phone, or on the loud speaker from the police car out in front, obey it. Get out. Get out because you have already prepared. Yes, you should have had that insurance policy that you forgot, that flood insurance program. Yes, you should have had it. And all too often, we have to rely upon the generosity of charities, and, thankfully, they are there. And we also rely upon the Federal, State and county governments.

Today, here in the House of Representatives, and in the Senate, as well as in the administration, we are beginning to gear up for yet another emergency appropriation to pay for the relief efforts that are underway. It is not going to be enough. It may take care of part of what occurred in Houston, or in Florida, or in the Keys. It is certainly not going to be enough to take care of the devastation in Puerto Rico. And I know, as the fires continue to rage in California, the appropriations that are being discussed, the emergency money for FEMA, will not be enough. While we are looking at these disasters and the billions upon billions of dollars that will be needed to rebuild the infrastructure, to rebuild the schools and hospitals, to pay the bills for the emergency work that is going on, this House of Representatives, this week, is in the process of trying to figure out how to pass a massive tax cut that will take trillions of dollars of revenue away from the Federal Government.

 

So Puerto Rico is devastated. My counties in California are facing rampaging fires, and perhaps as many as 2,000 homes have already burned. There will be another tornado and another hurricane. The question for us is: Will there be the money for the Federal Government to provide the support that we should do to help Americans rebuild? That is a fundamental question.

I know that there is a better way. I know that in the proposal that our Republicans have put forth there will be less money for infrastructure. I know that if you want good-paying jobs, the construction industry has good-paying jobs. I know that for every dollar we spend on infrastructure, the economy will grow by $2 or more and have a foundation for future economic growth. I know that when we rebuild the infrastructure of our communities that have been devastated by hurricanes, tornados, floods, and fires, that the communities can come back strong and the economies for those communities can flourish. I know that it takes a strong American Government to make that happen.

Mr. Speaker, as we enter this week, my heart and thoughts go out to those millions of Americans who have been devastated by the hurricanes, floods, and fires; those people in my district who have lost their homes, and those who have lost their lives. I come here to the floor to say: Let us think seriously about what our obligation is to Americans, to those who have little, to those who have lost everything. What is our obligation to them? FDR was correct: The measure of our success is not that we do more for those who have much, but, rather, that we do for those who have little.

Rep. Joaquin Castro (D-TX):

Mr. Speaker, as with any moment in the history of our Nation, in the world, there are tragedies and disasters which sear the conscience and call us to action not only because we are American, but because we are human. Some of these tragedies are manmade, others are the work of nature. Some hit close to home, such as the hurricanes that devastated Texas—my home State—Florida, and Puerto Rico, taking many lives and inflicting billions of dollars in damage. Some are the work of one man, like the shooter in Las Vegas, who took 58 lives…

As I mentioned previously, we are in an age of accelerated news, and with social media, we are in an age of knowing. Things that were once far away that were hardly seen or known directly or firsthand can now be seen over the internet, on Facebook, on Twitter, on other social media. The pace at which news comes at us now can give us a case of whiplash, and governing in this body and trying to deal with even the things that just affect the United States of America, such as the hurricanes that have hit Texas and Florida and Puerto Rico, can sometimes feel overwhelming. There can be a temptation to hunker down, to look no further than our own borders, to try to solve the problems that confront us not only as Americans but as fellow human beings. These days, with everything going on in our own Nation, sometimes it doesn’t seem like there is a time to take our focus off of our challenges and speak about other things, some of them far away. But it is important that we think about, that we remember, that we reflect, and that we try to solve the problems and challenges of other peoples.

Leave a Reply