A Reawakening to Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico By Hermina Garic
Hurricane Maria devastated Dominica and Puerto Rico from September 16, 2017 until October 2, 2017. A Harvard Study published last week in The New England Journal of Medicine estimates 4,645 deaths can be linked to the hurricane. Economically, there was a $90 billion loss for the region.
2,300 displaced families are about to lose their FEMA housing assistance as the Transitional Shelter Assistance Program is scheduled to end June 30th. Federal legislation was introduced to activate a longer term housing program, but it has not been advanced by Congress.
Puerto Rico is a United States territory. Concern is growing that the federal government has not sufficiently responded to this disaster. Relief to Hurricane Irma in Texas was much faster, while FEMA approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.
President Trump visited Puerto Rico and shot paper towels into crowds of survivors. Power restoration has been slow and millions of federal dollars for reconstruction have yet to be disbursed.
The Congressional Hispanic Caucus has called for a 9/11-type commission to investigate what one member, Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), called President Trump’s “most significant failure.”
Puerto Ricans do not have a voting member Congress, yet the U.S. federal government controls the politics and economics of the territory. Jenniffer González, Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner, said: “Ask yourself. If New Jersey or Connecticut had been without power for six months, what would have happened?”
Hermina Garic is a government student at Utica College and an intern for the K. Della Ferguson Womyn's Resource Center