Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons, D-Delaware, led by Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell, D-Washington; Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida; and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, sent a letter with 35 of their Senate colleagues to President Donald Trump to express concern about the situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
“We write to express deep concern about the dire humanitarian situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In Puerto Rico, Hurricane Maria recently knocked out the entire island’s electric grid leaving at least 3.4 million Americans with no power, decimated countless structures, and claimed the lives of at least 16 individuals,” the senators wrote. “Hospitals have no running water or basic supplies, and 95 percent of cellphone structures are still inactive. As a result, we still do not have an accurate assessment of the destruction.”
“In the words of Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, the people of Puerto Rico have been ‘essentially devastated.’ The United States Virgin Islands has also suffered catastrophic damage. While they slowly begin their recovery, more help is needed,” the senators wrote.
“At a time when there is not a second to lose and the health and well-being of millions of Americans in the U.S. territories depend on swift action, we have identified several areas where strong and decisive leadership is needed,” the letter continued.
The letter calls for eight specific actions to be undertaken by the Trump administration:
— To issue a full Disaster Declaration for Puerto Rico.
— To appoint a special assistant for rebuilding, to coordinate the multi-faceted federal efforts for Puerto Rico across all departments and agencies.
— To request more funding to assist Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
— To utilize all federal resources to restore power, including sending Department of Energy experts, 500 utility employees, 100 fuel trucks and 200 generators.
— To send more Department of Defense assets: construction battalions to repair power and transportation infrastructure, command and control aircraft for air traffic control; helicopters for search and rescue; and 1,500 service members to provide disaster and humanitarian assistance.
— To work with Congress to waive the local cost share requirement for FEMA public assistance disaster funding for all categories of FEMA public assistance.
— To send assets and expertise from across the federal government to restore communications, including from Department of Commerce, Federal Communications Commission, Coast Guard and Department of Defense.
— To ensure FEMA, Coast Guard and DOD work together effectively to restore all ports to working condition.
The full letter can be found at bit.ly/2wYUeZ1.