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Warren, Cantwell, Murray To Trump: We Must Do More for Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands

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Senators Call on Trump Administration to Take 8 Steps, Including Sending More Federal Personnel and Utilizing Federal Resources to Restore Power and Port Access

Sep 28, 2017

Washington, DC - U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) joined Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Patty Murray (D-WA), and 36 of their colleagues in a letter to President Trump expressing deep concern about the situation in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and urge swift action by the federal government.

In the letter, the senators wrote, "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. Hospitals have no running water or basic supplies, and 95% of cellphone structures are still inactive. As a result, we still do not have an accurate assessment of the destruction."

"In the words of Governor 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."

"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 continues.

The letter calls on the Trump Administration to take eight specific actions:

  1. Issue a full Disaster Declaration for the entire island of Puerto Rico, which has yet to happen. 
  2. Appoint a Special Assistant for Rebuilding, to coordinate the multi-faceted federal efforts for Puerto Rico across all departments and agencies.
  3. Request more funding to assist Puerto Rico's Medicaid program. 
  4. Utilize all federal resources to restore power, including sending Department of Energy experts; 500 utility employees; 100 fuel trucks; and 200 generators. 
  5. 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.
  6. Work with Congress to waive the local cost share requirement for FEMA public assistance disaster funding for all categories of FEMA public assistance.
  7. Send assets and expertise from across the federal government to restore communications, including from Department of Commerce, FCC, Coast Guard, and DOD.
  8. Ensure that FEMA, Coast Guard, and DOD work together effectively to restore all ports to working condition.

The letter, led by Senators Cantwell and Murray, was signed by Senator Warren, along with Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Bill Nelson (D-FL), Ed Markey (D-MA), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Brian Schatz (D-HI), Tom Carper (D-DE), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Dick Durbin (D-IL), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Martin Heinrich (D-NM), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Chris Murphy (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Coons (D-DE), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Gary Peters (D-MI), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bob Casey (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Al Franken (D-MN), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), and Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

The full letter can be found here.

Earlier this week, Senator Warren joined her senate colleagues in writing to Republican leadership to request that Congress be allowed to swiftly take up legislation that provides the necessary help to the U.S. citizens living in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. She has also joined in calling on President Trump to waive the local cost-sharing requirement for the hurricane response in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and for the federal government to fully cover recovery expenses, noting the challenging financial situation and extensive damage in both jurisdictions in calling for the waiver.

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