January 14, 2020

Senator Warren and Reps. Velázquez and Thompson Urge President to Fully Fund Emergency Response in Puerto Rico

Lawmakers call on White House to waive local cost-sharing requirements following recent earthquakes; "As Puerto Rico faces new challenges in the wake of these strong earthquakes, the federal government must not stand in the way of Puerto Rico's recovery"

Washington, DC - United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ranking Member of the Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Committee Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Protection; House Small Business Committee Chair Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.); and House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.); sent a letter urging President Trump to waive Puerto Rico's local cost-sharing requirement following recent earthquakes and to ensure that the federal government fully cover recovery expenses associated with the emergency that has been declared in Puerto Rico. In calling for the waiver, lawmakers noted the challenging financial situation and extensive damage in Puerto Rico.

"As Puerto Rico faces new challenges in the wake of these strong earthquakes, the federal government must not stand in the way of Puerto Rico's recovery," the lawmakers wrote to the President.

Under the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (Stafford Act), which makes federal funds available to areas experiencing a disaster, the federal government is required to cover at least 75% of eligible costs, with local governments providing matching funds to cover remaining costs. However, the federal government has discretion to decrease the amount of local matching funds, including by increasing the federal share of covered costs to 100%. President Trump exercised this discretion when he adjusted the cost-share for Puerto Rico for certain disaster assistance activities after Hurricane Maria. The Trump administration has currently set the local cost-sharing requirement for eligible costs related to Puerto Rico's recent earthquakes at 25%, which will be a barrier to the island's recovery.

"We urge you to again adjust the cost-share to a 100% federal share for Puerto Rico to help the island respond and recover," wrote the lawmakers. "Without quick action to adjust the cost-share, Puerto Rico may be unable to receive or be delayed in receiving critical assistance needed to make emergency repairs to public facilities and infrastructure."

Senator Warren is also joining colleagues in urging President Trump to support Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vázquez's request and issue a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage caused by the earthquakes. Following Hurricane Maria and President Trump's major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in September 2017, Senator Warren signed a letter urging the Administration to adjust the federal cost-share of Public Assistance grants to 100%. 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, as well as her work fighting for comprehensive debt relief for the island, visit www.warren.senate.gov/puertorico.