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Congressman Luis Gutierrez

Representing the 4th District of Illinois

Gutiérrez Offers Assistance To Governor Of Puerto Rico, Calls On President To Take Additional Actions On Behalf Of Hurricane Stricken Island

September 21, 2017
Press Release
Illinois Congressman asks President Trump to suspend the Jones Act and waive cost-sharing obligations in disaster relief effort.
Issues: 

Washington, DC -- Today, Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (D-IL) released a letter he sent to Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló offering his support to the people of Puerto Rico and expressing gratitude to the Governor for the vital work he has done so far addressing a once-in-a-century natural disaster, Hurricane Maria.  Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico as a category 4 storm and left a path of destruction across the Island just two weeks after Hurricane Irma also cause $1 billion in damage and widespread power outages.  Rep. Gutiérrez, who was born in Chicago and is Puerto Rican, pledged any assistance he could muster to address the Island’s immediate and long-term needs.  The two also tried to connect by telephone unsuccessfully (as of this writing).

Link to letter: PDF icon092117 LVG letter to Gov Rossello.pdf

The Congressman also called on the Trump Administration to take actions that take into account the unique problems facing Puerto Rico in the face of this disaster.  Puerto Rico’s location, its colonial or territorial status, and the deep financial crisis that has deteriorated the infrastructure and reduced the population in Puerto Rico are among the factors that could contribute to a far more severe impact of this storm in the coming days and weeks. 

Specifically, Rep. Gutiérrez wants the President to waive cost-sharing that would normally cause the Puerto Rican government to saddle some of the cost of federal assistance.  The Congressman also wants the President to suspend the Jones Act – which requires U.S. flag vessels be used to bring any goods, relief supplies or fuel to Puerto Rico.  The President has the power under current law to take these two executive actions.

Rep. Gutiérrez said:

“Puerto Rico is broke and the federal government already controls the purse strings through the financial control board or Junta that was imposed by Congress.  Puerto Rico can’t borrow funds and they are required to use American shipping only, which is the most expensive in the world.  In their hour of need, Washington can help by suspending the Jones Act and suspending cost-sharing obligations.  Puerto Rico was closing schools and hospitals and laying off cops before the two hurricanes hit this month, so Washington should go these extra steps.”

Rep. Gutiérrez reiterated concerns he first expressed in a letter to President Trump yesterday (http://bit.ly/2hibM7I) that a public health crisis is looming if Puerto Rico does not get massive aid quickly. 

Rep. Gutiérrez said: 

“Hundreds of doctors and medical professionals have left the Island in recent years and many of the youngest and healthiest workers too, so the people who remain in Puerto Rico are even more vulnerable to disease and other calamities after these hurricanes because the public health infrastructure was already collapsing.”

Earlier in the day, Rep. Gutiérrez convened a meeting in Chicago with leaders from the city’s Puerto Rican community, local elected officials, disaster relief experts, and local business leaders to begin addressing what Chicago can do to help Puerto Rico (see Facebook Live video: http://bit.ly/2fCiYLM).

In his letter to Governor Rosselló, Rep. Gutiérrez concluded by saying:

My thoughts and prayers are with you, your government and the people of Puerto Rico.  Thank you for all that you are doing to help Puerto Ricans face this unprecedented disaster.  I stand ready to help you in any way I can, so please do not hesitate to call on me if there is anything you need or you think I can do to help.

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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