Gutiérrez Calls On President Trump To Help Puerto Rico Rescue And Recovery “As Quickly As Humanly Possible”
Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) released a letter he sent to President Trump today urging the President to declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico, which is being hit by a once-in-a-century hurricane today. The Congressman, a U.S. born Puerto Rican, asks Trump to “declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico as soon as the statute allows and direct FEMA to aggressively marshal and coordinate all federal resources available to the Island as quickly as humanly possible.”
Full text of letter: 092017 Hurricane Maria Letter to President.pdf
The Congressman is requesting fast action to deal with the immediate crisis, including rescue operations, and also a long-term commitment to helping the Island recover.
“Puerto Rico is particularly vulnerable. Hurricane Maria is barreling over Puerto Rico two weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Irma which caused over $1 billion in damage. Puerto Ricans have already been reeling from power outages, lack of potable water and a shortage of basic resources. Obviously, the first order of business is search and rescue, saving lives, reopening airports and seaports for critical supplies and to ensure that the Puerto Rican people have shelter, clean water and food.
“In addition, the dire needs facing Puerto Ricans in the coming days and weeks cannot be overstated. The Island has suffered for more than 10 years under a recession and is in the midst of a severe financial crisis, crushing debt, high unemployment and unprecedented out-migration. The fiscal control board imposed on Puerto Rico by the U.S. Congress has already slashed the public budget, imposed extreme austerity measures and is powerless to invest in the economy, create jobs and promote growth. This means that Puerto Rico is broke and absolutely unable to financially contribute to its own recovery. Given this, I ask you to ensure that any cost sharing requirements that would normally be imposed on a state or territory under less dire circumstances be waived, as you are allowed to do under law.”
Rep. Gutiérrez’s letter also asks the President and federal agencies to see clearly the unique disadvantages Puerto Rico faces in a disaster such as this one because of its location, demographics, and federal policies that starve Puerto Rico of much-needed infrastructure and aid. In addition, the Congressman calls the President’s attention to the needs of the elderly in Puerto Rico and the need for Spanish-language capabilities as federal resources are deployed.
“While states facing major disasters on the mainland benefit from relatively accessible emergency assistance of neighboring states, Puerto Rico’s location offers no such access. The call for emergency assistance must be aggressive, broad and throughout the United States, with a particular focus on air and sea resources to more swiftly facilitate the marshalling of desperately needed assistance to the Island. […]
“I will do my part in Chicago to rally support and resources from Puerto Ricans and other Americans concerned for the plight of those in Hurricane Maria’s path.”
The Congressman is hosting a community meeting in Chicago on Thursday morning with leaders in the Puerto Rican community and experts on disaster relief to harness the deep connections between Chicago and Puerto Rico to address the Island’s emergency and make sure aid flows quickly to where it is needed most.
Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez is a Member of the Judiciary Committee and the Chair of the Immigration Task Force of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
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