Members of Congress: Are We Doing Enough to Protect Sick, Elderly & Vulnerable Hurricane Survivors in Puerto Rico?
WASHINGTON, D.C. – On Thursday, a group of Democratic House Members who represent substantial Puerto Rican constituencies in their districts held a press conference in front of the U.S. Capitol to discuss what they are hearing from the Puerto Rican communities they represent. In particular, the Members said they are receiving pleas of help from constituents to get sick, elderly and vulnerable loved ones off of the island and to the mainland. At the press conference, they discussed the urgency with which aid is needed in Puerto Rico, but also the need to evacuate people and help them resettle on the mainland if they want to.
In total, eight Members of Congress from five states spoke at the press conference and Rep. Darren Soto of Florida, who is one of the four Democrats of Puerto Rican heritage, was called away, but provided a statement for this press release.
“The stories that you’re reading and seeing from Puerto Rico are all true. The devastation and damage is real and people need our help,” stated Rep. Darren Soto (FL-09). “Our fellow American citizens are facing unthinkable tragedies. I saw people all over the island waiting in long lines for groceries and gas, most areas lacked electricity, cell phone service, and functioning traffic lights. Debris still covered many roads. Most buildings sustained minor or major damage. In the immediate term, it is critical we send air assets and airlifts with additional supplies to rural areas. I urge my colleagues in Congress to come together and pass a supplemental FEMA package for Puerto Rico.”
“If people want to stay, they should stay, but if people want to leave Puerto Rico for the mainland, we should find a way to help them do so,” said Rep. Luis V. Gutiérrez (IL-04). “FEMA and the Governor of Puerto Rico are in charge, but our constituents are calling us to say, ‘help us’ and we would not be doing our jobs if we did not lift up our voices and amplify the concerns of our constituents. How long can hospitals go without electricity, or the elderly without their medicine, or the children without schools? It has been weeks and I know in Chicago we are ready to take families in.”
“What’s happening in Puerto Rico is nothing short of a humanitarian crisis,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (NY-07). “We have a moral responsibility to help and, especially, ensure the most vulnerable citizens on the island are safe. To that end, I will continue advocating for a robust recovery package that, beyond rebuilding the Island’s infrastructure, helps address the Medicaid shortfall and Puerto Rico’s flagging healthcare system.”
“Hundreds of thousands of people, including seniors and people with chronic diseases, have no access to proper health care in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria,” said Rep. José E. Serrano (NY-15). "Hospitals have limited electricity and/or water, Doctors are not readily available, and the waiting lines at health care facilities providing some sort of care are too long. Those who can afford it are resorting to leaving the island to find proper care in the States. But those who can’t afford even access to clean water and food are the ones suffering the most. I urge my colleagues to join us in helping address this issue at the federal level by ensuring the government of Puerto Rico has the funding and tools they need to properly address this crisis.”
“Puerto Rico is in crisis,” said Rep. Joe Crowley (NY-14), Chairman of the Democratic Caucus. “The federal government must immediately do more to help the island rebuild and ensure that the individuals living there have the access to water, supplies, and health care they so desperately need.”
“Lorain has the most densely populated Puerto Rican community in the entire state of Ohio. Families in my District are concerned about their loved ones and I share their concern,” said Rep. Marcy Kaptur (OH-09). “As Puerto Rico begins to recover from devastation, it faces a dangerous crisis; there is no electricity, no water, and donated goods cannot reach the people as many roads are impassable. People are in limbo. Kids can't go to school, doctors can't reach the sick. Addressing this humanitarian crisis is priority number one, and we need to get our fellow Americans the help and relief they need.”
“I am deeply concerned about the response to the tragedy in Puerto Rico,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro (CT-03). “As we witness the devastation, I am angry, and I am frustrated. These are Americans citizens—our family, our friends—being abandoned by the Trump Administration at their hour of most need. We are blessed to have a vibrant, large Puerto Rican community in Connecticut. I met with family members and advocates in New Haven on Monday, and it is clear that we need to get the most vulnerable people off the island to get the care, treatment, and hospitalization the need. I want everyone to know that you are welcome; the doors to New Haven are open. Our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico deserve the highest standard of care. Let’s act now.”
“Now is a time for action. I am getting calls every day from Massachusetts families with loved ones in Puerto Rico who desperately need our help. Many are unable to contact their families or worry about their access to essential medical care,” Rep. Jim McGovern (MA-02) said. “They want to know that we are doing all we can to help. Despite all the rosy rhetoric coming out of the White House, we know the situation on the ground is dire and the failure of the administration to help our fellow Americans is shameful. This is urgent and we will not rest until Puerto Rico gets the assistance they need to recover from this tragic hurricane.”
“We must stand united in our efforts to provide a safety net for Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable residents including our seniors, children, and individuals with urgent medial needs,” said Rep. Adriano Espaillat (NY-13). “As we enter day 15 since Hurricane Maria first made landfall, we are fast approaching dire life or death situations for individuals facing the critical circumstances in their lifetime. America will be remembered for the way we responded to the needs of our citizens, and we must act now to provide relief for Puerto Ricans and help them rebuild.”
The press conference was broadcast on Facebook Live: https://www.facebook.com/RepGutiérrez/videos/10155766587978205/
Photos from the press conference here (via Office of Rep. Gutiérrez): https://www.dropbox.com/sh/4g3caosdccd95n2/AABbPX-6HUH2ly94UZF-d5QNa?dl=0
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