November 18, 2020

Warren, Espaillat And Advocates Demand Senate Action After House Passes Vital Legislation For Disaster Survivors In Puerto Rico

Washington, DC United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Representative Adriano Espaillat (D-N.Y.) urged the Senate to take swift action on the Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act, a bipartisan bill they led with Rep. Jenniffer González Colón (PR-At-Large) which clarifies and modernizes federal housing assistance programs used in Puerto Rico and elsewhere after natural disasters, which was passed by the House of Representatives today.

“In recent years, natural disasters throughout the country have left families without safe, stable, and affordable housing – but the Trump administration has too often failed to respond. The House just passed our bill to make it easier for communities to receive the housing help that they need following a natural disaster, and I urge the Senate to quickly take it up," said Senator Warren.

“The federal government’s failed response to Hurricanes Maria and Irma’s devastating impact on the people—and island—of Puerto Rico has proven to be a illustration of the harm that outdated relief programs and congressional gridlock can have on a community. And the continued suffering from these storms, particularly in Puerto Rico, compel the Congress to address the barriers and pitfalls of federal disaster assistance programs, which have often failed to meet their stated objective: to help natural disaster survivors rebuild their lives and homes,” said Rep. Espaillat. “I am relieved that the House passed the Housing Survivors of Major Disasters Act today, which provides financial assistance for land surveys and other costs associated with Disaster Housing Assistance Program’s application process and relieves survivors from having to notarize documents or furnish deeds for their homes before receiving relief, an impossible task for many in the wake of natural disasters. Now, the Senate must step up, act, and pass this important piece of legislation,” he concluded.

“Survivors of hurricanes and other disasters need quick and agile responses to the devastating loss of homes and livelihoods. Today, the US House of Representatives stepped up to eliminate unnecessary barriers to aid for those suffering FEMA denials, now the Senate must follow suit,” said Adi Martínez-Román, Senior Policy Analyst for Puerto Rico in Oxfam America, an anti-poverty and humanitarian organization that has been working in Puerto Rico through local partners since Hurricane María. “Oxfam has seen the ordeal that hundreds of thousands of poor Americans go through after a disaster hits in order to rebuild their lives. As this grave situation replicates across the United States, Congress has the duty to find and enact these type of effective solutions that get federal emergency and recovery funds quickly into the hands of those that need it the most.”

For decades, FEMA has wrongfully denied critical assistance to America’s lowest-income and most marginalized disaster survivors simply because they could not meet FEMA’s overly rigid documentation requirements,” stated Diane Yentel, president and CEO of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, which leads the Disaster Housing Recovery Coalition of more than 850 local, state, and national organizations. “With this bill, Congress is holding FEMA accountable for its continued failure to address the needs of low-income survivors, particularly survivors of color and other marginalized people. I urge Congress to act quickly to enact this long-overdue reform to better ensure an equitable and complete recovery for survivors with the greatest needs.

As a steadfast champion for Puerto Rico, Senator Warren is fighting to address the inadequate disaster response and slow recovery efforts, and to pass legislation to forgive much of Puerto Rico's debt. For more information about her extensive work fighting for robust recovery efforts for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands since Hurricanes Irma and Maria, visit

  • In May of 2019 Senator Warren and Representative Espaillat reintroduced legislation to provide stable housing for survivors of natural disasters after the Trump administration refused to provide housing aid to victims of recent disasters.

  • In April of 2020, Senator Warren led her colleagues in calling on the Trump administration to address Puerto Rico’s unique vulnerability to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  • On December 13, 2019, Senator Warren led a request to the Department of Homeland Security Inspector General for an investigation of FEMA’s faltering efforts to rebuild Vieques’ closed health care facility.