U.S. Legislators Mark the Anniversary of Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico has had one year to recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria. The lights are back on, businesses have reopened, and many parts of the Island seem to be back to normal.

Numerous members of Congress recognized the anniversary of the day Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  In the Senate, Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) introduced a resolution noting that “significant challenges remain in recovery and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico,” while also recognizing the progress made over the past year and the federal involvement in that progress.

The Senate resolution notes that “the electrical grid on the island of Puerto Rico remains unreliable and susceptible to intermittent brownouts and blackouts,” and that “many Puerto Ricans continue to be displaced without access to permanent housing both on the island of Puerto Rico and on the mainland.”

The resolution further “commits to ensuring that survivors of Hurricane Maria have adequate resources to continue the recovery process” and “extols the work of first responders and citizens who contributed to saving countless lives in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.”

The statement also “reaffirms the commitment of the Senate to support the people of Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands as they continue to rebuild and recover from the devastation of Hurricane Maria.”

Resolution cosponsor Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) explained that “[w]hile significant challenges remain in recovery and rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico one year after Hurricane Maria, this resolution is a poignant reminder of the Senate’s commitment to support the people of Puerto Rico, and I’m proud my colleagues joined me in introducing it.”

Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) marked the anniversary with a press conference in New York.

“It does not give me any pleasure to say this,” Velazquez began, “but I think it is now widely acknowledged that the Administration’s response to Maria has been an abject failure…We know now that this tragically inadequate response cost nearly 3,000 of our fellow citizens their lives. Whether it was from falling trees or debris, or from a dialysis machine not having power to operate, or from the suicide rate spiking during the longest blackout in American history – make no mistake – these deaths are attributed to Maria and, even worse, to this Administration’s woeful response.”

The recent announcement of the official death toll brought Hurricane Maria back into the headlines, and President Trump’s tweets claiming that the number was the culmination of a plot to make him “look bad” was met with widespread outrage.

Velazquez announced at the press conference that she, Senator Elizabeth Warren(D-MA) and more than 130 of their colleagues had written a letter to the president asking him to apologize for and to retract his tweets.

She also mentioned a bill she cosponsored setting new requirements for counting deaths in natural disasters. The “excess deaths” method is recognized by the World Health Organization. Finally, Velazquez called again for an investigation into the federal response to Hurricane Maria, which President trump described as “an incredible unsung success.”

House Democratic Whip Steny H. Hoyer (D-MD) also released a statement on the anniversary of the hurricane. “While the White House has said that President Trump ‘remains proud of all the work’ his Administration undertook in response to the storms, it is clear the billions of dollars Congress has appropriated to help communities rebuild is not getting to those most in need,” he said.”When I visited the impacted areas last October, I saw little to be proud of – other than the resilience of the local communities in facing a terrible disaster and doing so effectively alone.  Congress and the Administration have a responsibility to those still trying to recover, even a year later, and ought to do everything possible to provide them with assistance.”

 

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