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Washington Begins to Act to Help Puerto Rico

The White House announced on Tuesday that the federal government will cover 100 percent of debris removal and emergency protective measures involved with the hurricane recovery effort. This full federal reimbursement will continue for 180 days from the date of the declaration, said FEMA Tuesday.

Puerto Rico was running out of money to match federal dollars for recovery from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). With the large amount of debt and the continuous Medicaid shortfalls, funding the recovery effort has been challenging.

President Donald Trump also said on Tuesday that he will visit the island on Oct. 3 to see the damage that has been done.

The President began the day with a series of tweets addressing the situation that Puerto Rico was going through before hurricane Maria. An island with a large amount of debt, struggling to pay day-to-day costs to sustain themselves, now has to deal with a humanitarian crisis.

With the looming Columbus Day recess, a hurricane relief package for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands has to be done swiftly. Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-NY, called for quick action from the White House.

Any action from Congress to act quickly on a disaster aid package hinges on the official cost estimates that the White House will provide. House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R-Wis., stated: “When we get the information we need form the administration, we will be doing more in Congress to act on all of these hurricane victims.”

Resident Commissioner González-Colón asks for help

The Resident Commissioner preemptively started urging federal agencies to support Puerto Rico. On September 19, 2017, Resident Commissioner Gonzalez-Colon sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy stating the difficulty of the island’s electric power grid system.

“The power plants on the island have a median age of 44 years, well beyond the industry average of 18 years, resulting in frequent power outages”, the letter states. After hurricane Maria, the Puerto Rico Power Electric Authority has been in shambles. The entire infrastructure has been damaged and people around the island might not get their power restored for months.

Last Thursday, the Resident Commissioner also sent a letter to the Small Business Administration asking for assistance in identifying programs to help the island recover. Another letter was sent to the U.S. Department of Transportation urging the Secretary to help identify programs and assistance available for the recovery of the highways, roads, and bridges. Finally, the Resident Commissioner sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help the island’s agricultural community recover from the hurricane’s damages to the industry.

These letters requested the tools that Puerto Rico needs to recover from this natural disaster.

As the Island begins to recover, Puerto Ricans need to keep working together in their relief efforts in this desperate situation. The federal response has been great, as Governor Roselló stated on Tuesday, but the island needs more help. Gas station lines begin at 4:30 am and remain full until late in the afternoon. The diaspora continuously are trying to send aid packages to their family members, but their efforts are naught since the packages are not reaching the island. Many Puerto Ricans that have suffered structural damages to their house are waiting for FEMA to help them recover. The situation is dire and the island needs help.

These recovery efforts have PROMESA complications because of the huge debt that the island has,  the island has requested flexibility to be able to address all of the different needs and be able to recover from this disaster.


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