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Congresswoman Waters Slams Trump Administration for Not Doing More for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

September 29, 2017
Press Release

Congresswoman Waters Slams Trump Administration for Not Doing More for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

WASHINGTON, D.C. Congresswoman Maxine Waters (CA-43), Ranking Member of the House Financial Services Committee, made the following statement on the Trump Administration’s response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to the damage caused by Hurricane Maria: 

“The Trump Administration’s response to the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands has been woefully inadequate.  The president should know that just because those islands are separated from the U.S. mainland doesn’t mean that they are not a part of the United States of America.  We can, and we must, do better for our citizens in the face of disaster.   At a time when there is such desperation, and at a time when people remain in danger, this president was so inhumane as to blame Puerto Rico for its ‘deep trouble,’ citing its debt and infrastructure.  Now is not the time to lay blame. Now is the time to focus on the lives of our people and to do everything that we can to meet their needs.

“My thoughts and prayers are with everyone who has been affected by all of the recent storms—Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.  The deaths, the injuries, and the damage in Texas, Florida, and other nearby states have been tragic.  And today, in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and other areas of the Caribbean, the devastation is nothing short of catastrophic. 

“According to recent reports, 16 people were killed in Puerto Rico, and one was killed in the U.S. Virgin Islands.[1]  It has been a week since the storm, and almost all of Puerto Rico is still without power.  That includes 58 of the island’s 69 hospitals, which need to be operational in order to treat the sick and the injured.  Roughly 1.5 million people are without clean drinking water,[2] and there are reports of food and fuel shortages. There are hot and muggy conditions with no air conditioning and no way to refrigerate food, medicine, and supplies. This is a particular concern for Puerto Rico’s most vulnerable residents, like the sick and the elderly.  For instance, we are hearing stories of diabetics who are unable to refrigerate or get access to insulin, and we are hearing reports of bedridden seniors in remote parts of the island who cannot walk around in search of food, water, and other assistance. In the U.S. Virgin Islands, it will cost an estimated $200 million just to rebuild the electrical grid, and it is reported that 70 percent of the buildings in St. Croix alone are damaged.[3]  St. Thomas and St. John were likewise devastated.  Furthermore, in the U.S. Virgin Islands, there are reports of piles of debris and rotting garbage, homes torn from their foundations, and health clinics running out of supplies.[4]  If we don’t act soon, the public health and humanitarian crisis is just going to get worse.

“Despite the undeniable devastation and horrific conditions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the Trump administration has responded more slowly and committed fewer resources than it did in Texas and Florida in response to Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.[5]  Donald Trump’s excuse that responding is more difficult because of geography just doesn’t fly.[6]  Until yesterday, the Trump administration had refused to waive shipping restrictions under the Jones Act to allow much needed supplies to be transported to Puerto Rico for the relief efforts even though the Department of Homeland Security waived those same restrictions following Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.  Yesterday’s decision to waive those restrictions is a little late.  The response to this crisis needs to pick up the pace.

“This country has the capability to respond when its citizens are in need, and we should be committed to doing so in all parts of our great nation.  Perhaps Donald Trump should spend less time concerning himself with preventing NFL players from expressing their first amendment rights, and spend more time thinking about how to help struggling Americans who survived a natural disaster and are desperate for assistance.”