Following Recent Puerto Rico Earthquakes, Schumer, Rep. Velázquez Lead Democratic Lawmakers In Calling For FEMA Extension Of Incident Period

May 5, 2020

In New letter To FEMA, Members Call For The Major Disaster Declaration In Puerto Rico To Include Damages Caused By May Earthquakes

Washington, D.C. –  Led by United States Senate Democratic Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY), 24 Members of Congress wrote the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) today requesting Administrator Pete T. Gaynor extend the incident period for the major disaster declaration in Puerto Rico to cover the most recent earthquake damages of May 2, 2020. The current incident period, which was granted until February 4, 2020 following the 6.4-magnitude earthquake in January, would not include claims caused by recent earthquakes to be deemed eligible for public assistance. 

“Our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico have endured unimaginable tragedy but continue to stand strong amid so much adversity,” stated Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY). “As the island overcomes last weekend’s earthquake, the least we can do is assure anyone who sustained damages will have access to the resources they need. By allowing this extension, FEMA will be providing peace of mind to hundreds of thousands Puerto Ricans, many who are still reeling from the impact of natural disasters and now a global pandemic. Senate Democrats will continue fighting for equal resources for Puerto Rico, especially for testing and treatment during COVID-19.”

“Even before COVID-19, Puerto Rico was already struggling from devastating earthquakes, while still recovering from the historic hurricanes from just a few short years ago.” stated Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “The latest shock this weekend, coupled with challenges brought on by the pandemic, have made a difficult situation even worse. FEMA should act now to extend the disaster declaration so our fellow citizens there continue receiving badly needed aid. In addition for asking FEMA for this extension, I will continue fighting for aid for Puerto Rico in future legislation.”

The lawmakers wrote in the letter: “In the months following this major earthquake, Puerto Rico has been hit by a number of smaller aftershocks. This past Saturday, the US Geological Survey (USGS) announced there had been a 5.4 magnitude earthquake which struck around 7:15 AM local time near Tallaboa, about 80 miles southwest of the capital of San Juan. Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced said 50 families were forced from their homes but that they are not being housed in shelters due to fears over coronavirus. While the damage is still being assessed, the USGS’s announcement connects this to the aforementioned 6.4 magnitude earthquake as an aftershock.”

In addition to Schumer and Velázquez, the letter is signed by: Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ); Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Senator Richard Blumenthal (D-CT); Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA); Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA); Senator Edward Markey (D-MA); Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR); Senator Kristin Gillibrand (D-NY); Senator Tim Kaine (D-VA); Senator Patty Murray (D-WA); Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT); Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR); Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL); Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT); Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY); Rep. Adriano Espaillat (D-NY); Rep. Jesus G. “Chuy” Garcia (D-IL); Rep. Ruben Gallego (D-AZ); Rep. Darren Soto (D-FL); Rep. Juan Vargas (D-CA); Rep. Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

You can find the letter here and below:

Dear Administrator Gaynor:

We write in strong support of the Government of Puerto Rico’s request to extend the incident period for the already granted major disaster declaration in response to the 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7, DR-4473, to include the aftershocks that occurred this past weekend.

Back in January, a 6.4-magnitude earthquake rippled across the southern portion of Puerto Rico and resulted in eight landslides, over 2,000 individuals in shelters – including 125 minors, and a massive loss of electricity for island residents. The earthquake tragically claimed the life of a 73-year-old man in the southern city of Ponce and many more were injured. The Costa Sur power generation plant – the largest on Puerto Rico’s grid – sustained damage so severe that the Island will need 500 megawatts of emergency generation for the rest of the year. In response, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced requested a major disaster declaration on January 11, 2020, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288) and this was granted on January 15. The original incident period was defined by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) starting December 28, 2019 through February 4, 2020.

In the months following this major earthquake, Puerto Rico has been hit by a number of smaller aftershocks. This past Saturday, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) announced there had been a 5.4-magnitude earthquake that struck around 7:15 AM local time near Tallaboa, about 80 miles southwest of the capital of San Juan. Governor Vázquez Garced said 50 families were forced from their homes but that they are not being housed in shelters due to fears over coronavirus. While the damage is still being assessed, the USGS’s announcement connects this incident to the aforementioned 6.4-magnitude earthquake as an aftershock. Therefore, we urge FEMA to extend the incident period for DR-4473 to include these more recent quakes off the coast of Puerto Rico.

We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with FEMA to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.

Sincerely,

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