New Schumer Op-Ed In The New York Daily News: What Trump Owes Puerto Rico: Senate Republicans And The President Have An Obligation To An American Island Devastated By Hurricanes

April 1, 2019

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer published the following op-ed in The New York Daily News to outline his view of how President Trump and Senate Republicans have an obligation to provide necessary aid to help Puerto Rico recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The op-ed can be found here and below.

Schumer: What Trump owes Puerto Rico: Senate Republicans and the president have an obligation to an American island devastated by hurricanes

By Chuck Schumer

March 31

American children and families reeling from natural disasters deserve a Congress and a president who will ensure they have every resource needed to fully recover and rebuild their lives and communities. That is what our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico deserve, and what Senate Republicans and President Trump are refusing to provide.

The destruction that was seen after Hurricanes Irma and Maria tore across Puerto Rico 18 months ago is hard to overstate. The island was devastated – from its urban centers to its rural outlands. Thousands lost their lives and the island’s infrastructure was decimated. Yet our response to this all-encompassing damage has been woefully inadequate, especially when compared to the response we’ve provided after less impactful events that have befallen areas in the continental United States.

More than two months ago, the House passed a comprehensive disaster bill to help those impacted by last year’s hurricanes in Florida, North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Virginia; the volcanic eruptions in Hawaii; the wildfires in California; and the typhoons that impacted the Pacific territories. The bill also provided critical assistance for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as they continue to recover from Irma and Maria.

Unfortunately, at the president’s insistence, Senate Republicans chose not to take quick action on the House disaster bill – reportedly because it contained, in the president’s mind, too much assistance for Puerto Rico. He claims that Puerto Rico is getting $91 billion in disaster relief, but no one can discern where he’s getting that figure, which is many times higher than the actual number.

According to the Washington Post, only about $11 billion in federal funds have actually been spent on the island. And now Republican senators are attempting to modify the bill sent over from the House to strip away money that Puerto Rico and other territories desperately need and deserve. Republicans are even rejecting a Democratic compromise offer that would have sped up the release of billions in funding that Congress already allocated over a year ago, but the administration has refused to provide.

Rather than keeping a promise to provide necessary aid to help Puerto Rico recover from these devastating hurricanes, the Trump administration and Senate Republicans continue to find ways to slow down and limit critical federal dollars from reaching our fellow American citizens still recovering from these disasters.

In fact, the administration has yet to disperse nearly $20 billion in long-term recovery and mitigation funds for Puerto Rico, more than a year after they were approved by Congress and a year-and-a-half after the historic hurricanes made landfall. Bureaucracy and changing FEMA guidance have similarly delayed crucial rebuilding projects at hospitals and schools, and stoked real concerns that the administration is not interested in helping the island build back better – the way that Congress intended.

The Puerto Rican people should be actively utilizing the recovery funds we fought to provide. These funds should certainly not be locked away in the U.S. Treasury because of bureaucratic red tape.

A senior administration official told the Washington Post that “[Trump] doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island.”

It is shameful and unacceptable that the president is going to such great lengths to not help the people of Puerto Rico. Even more shameful is the president boasting that he has “taken better care of Puerto Rico than any man ever” while he actively undermines Puerto Rico’s recovery. Trump has callously denied that nearly 3,000 Americans died as a result of the hurricanes, and remarkably said Hurricane Maria was not “a real catastrophe.”

Before Monday’s votes on this disaster package, Senate Republicans must remember that – just as we leave no soldier behind on the battlefield – we help our fellow Americans when there’s a disaster, wherever the disaster strikes. We do not abandon them. Period.

The president and Senate Republicans’ actions on Puerto Rico can be described in only two words: cruel and nasty.

Chuck Schumer from New York is the Democratic leader in the Senate.

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Extractos en Español:  

Niños y familias estadounidenses que han sido afectados por desastres naturales merecen un Congreso y un presidente que se asegurará de que todos tengan los recursos necesarios para recuperar y reconstruir completamente sus vidas y comunidades.

Eso es lo que merecen nuestros conciudadanos estadounidenses en Puerto Rico, y lo que los republicanos del Senado y el presidente Trump se niegan a facilitar la ayuda.

Es difícil de exagerar la destrucción que se vio después de que los huracanes Irma y María arrasaron Puerto Rico hace 18 meses. La isla fue devastada, desde sus centros urbanos hasta sus zonas rurales. Miles de personas perdieron sus vidas y la infraestructura de la isla fue diezmada. Sin embargo, nuestra respuesta a este daño total ha sido lamentablemente inadecuada, especialmente cuando es comparada con la respuesta que hemos brindado a otras regiones de los Estados Unidos cuando han sido afectadas por eventos de menor impacto.

Desafortunadamente, ante la insistencia del presidente, los republicanos del Senado optaron por no tomar medidas rápidas sobre el proyecto de ley de desastre presentado por la Cámara de Representantes, porque supuestamente contenía, en la mente del presidente, demasiada asistencia para Puerto Rico.

En vez de cumplir con su promesa de proporcionar la ayuda necesaria para que Puerto Rico se recupere de estos huracanes devastadores, la administración de Trump y los republicanos del Senado continúan encontrando maneras para retener y limitar que los fondos federales lleguen a nuestros conciudadanos estadounidenses que aún se están recuperando de estos desastres.

El pueblo puertorriqueño debería de estar usando los fondos de recuperación que luchamos para proporcionar a la isla. Estos fondos no deberían ser retenidos por el Departamento del Tesoro de los Estados Unidos debido a la burocracia.

Es vergonzoso e inaceptable que el presidente haga todo lo posible por no ayudar al pueblo puertorriqueño.

Antes de que el senado vote el lunes sobre este proyecto de ley para dar más dinero a zonas afectadas por desastres naturales, los republicanos del Senado deben recordar que, así como nunca dejamos atrás a ningún soldado en el campo de batalla, tenemos que ayudar a nuestros compatriotas estadounidenses cuando ocurre un desastre. No los abandonamos.

Las acciones del presidente y los republicanos del Senado sobre Puerto Rico se pueden describir con solo dos palabras: cruel y desagradable.