Earlier on Wednesday, the Power4PuertoRico coalition released the following audio recording of its May 15 media call, as well as a press release.
WASHINGTON, DC – Power 4 Puerto Rico hosted a national media call where coalition members discussed the current state of Puerto Rico and the millions of families displaced nearly 8 months after Hurricane Maria, as well as the future needs for hurricane preparedness in the wake of the 2018 hurricane season, which officially begins June 1. The coalition was joined by Representative Darren Soto (FL-09) and Representative Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), who enumerated the many ways Congress can do more to improve relief efforts across the Island.
Melissa Mark-Viverito, Campaign Director for Power 4 Puerto Rico, opened the call: “Based on scientific research and as a result of climate change and warming waters in our oceans, we know that the strength and intensity of each hurricane season is only going to increase. Puerto Rico is not ready to endure another Category 5 hurricane. We want to ensure Puerto Rico increases its resilience, builds better infrastructure and that FEMA —as well as the administration on the island— is prepared for another storm.”
Mark-Viverito cited undue delays and burdensome requirements on the distribution of disaster aid as one of the main reasons for the Island’s current condition just days before the new hurricane season. She also reiterated the coalition’s call for a shift to community-driven rebuilding on the Island.
Congressman Darren Soto (FL-09) said: “This crisis can best be described in numbers. This was $90 billion in devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, yet Congress and President Trump only allocated $15 billion. We’re seeing the results of that playing out in thousands of stories everyday of the underfunded recovery. As we enter another storm season, we’re only seeing $1 billion invested in rebuilding the electric grid. It is no surprise that we’re seeing rolling blackouts, rural areas that still don’t have access to power, where traffic lights as recently as three weeks ago were out in urban areas. This is one of the major effects of Congress underfunding the disaster relief effort.”
Congressman Adriano Espaillat (NY-13) said: “My colleagues and I have worked hard to enact legislation that will facilitate and accelerate the allocated funds to the people who have been directly impacted by Hurricane Maria. Currently, FEMA has been denying many of the applications submitted by Puerto Ricans for funding to restore their housing, citing a lack of adequate proof of ownership. That is why we have presented a new bill in Congress that will make it easier to establish residency and ownership. It remains critical that we continue our efforts until the residents of Puerto Rico are fully restored and get their lives back on track.”
Frankie Miranda, Senior Vice President for Hispanic Federation: “While we recognize that no one is fully prepared for a natural disaster of this magnitude, we must hold the federal government accountable for their response to the communities they are responsible to serve. What we know from the groups working on the ground is that the federal response was uncoordinated, ineffective and, in many cases, even criminal. The 70 groups we work with on several projects–from housing to agriculture to health–are doing incredible work in their communities but they all feel like they have been abandoned by government.”
Ana María Archila, Co-Executive Director for the Center for Popular Democracy, said: “We have 200,000 people who have been displaced by a natural disaster and that has not elicited a response from the federal government that is adequate. Hurricane season is about to start again, and with the climate trends as they are, this is not going to be a one-time situation. We need the federal government to understand the magnitude and reality of the situation in Puerto Rico.”
Power 4 Puerto Rico is a coalition of organizations, leaders, and advocates from across the nation calling on Congress and the Administration to adopt an ambitious, new agenda that will put Puerto Rico’s economy on the road to future growth and prosperity. The coalition includes 32BJ Service Employees International Union, American Federation of Teachers (AFT), BoricuActívate, Center for American Progress (CAP), Center for Popular Democracy (CPD), Hedge Clippers, Hispanic Federation, Hispanic National Bar Association (HNBA), Labor Council For Latin American Advancement (LCLAA), Make the Road (New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey), UnidosUS, Vamos 4 Puerto Rico, and many more.