Menendez, Booker and Colleagues Support Puerto Rico’s Request for a Major Disaster Declaration to Respond to Earthquakes

Menendez, Booker and Colleagues Support Puerto Rico’s Request for a Major Disaster Declaration to Respond to Earthquakes

Earthquakes make HUD’s inaction on $8.3 billion in mitigation funding appropriated by Congress in 2018 even more unconscionable, Senators say

   
WASHINGTON, D.C.. –  In a letter to President Trump, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez and Cory Booker (both D-N.J.) today joined Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and 30 colleagues in expressing their strong support of Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration following the January 7 earthquake which, along with hundreds of preceding and subsequent aftershocks, caused widespread damage to the island.   

“Reflecting the island-wide damage from these earthquakes, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced has requested that you declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico on January 11, 2020, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288),” the Senators wrote to the President. “Specifically, the governor has requested Individual Assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, Utuado, and Yauco; Public Assistance, including direct Federal assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, San German, and Yauco; and Hazard Mitigation for the entire commonwealth.”

The Senators also criticized the Administration’s decision to withhold $8.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR), appropriated by Congress in 2018 for mitigations projects in Puerto Rico as result of the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in 2017.

“There is no substantive reason to withhold this congressionally-mandated disaster aid for our fellow Americans on the island, and indeed failure to disburse these funds has a damaging material impact on Puerto Rico and its residents,” added the Senators. “The bottom line is that this money must be made available to Puerto Rico now and failure to do so is in violation of Congress’ explicit intent.”

The full text of the letter can be found here and below.

Dear President Trump:

We write in strong support of Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage caused by the powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7, and the hundreds of preceding and subsequent aftershocks which struck the island starting late on December 28. Enclosed is a copy of the governor’s request.

More than two days after the 6.4-magnitude event, more than one million of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico were still without power. Eight landslides had been recorded, over 2,000 individuals were in shelters including 125 minors, and the island’s communication’s grid was only 75 percent operational. Many schools have been closed indefinitely and will only be reopened upon inspection. 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. Clearly, the situation in Puerto Rico is dire.

Reflecting the island-wide damage from these earthquakes, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced has requested that you declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico on January 11, 2020, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288).  Specifically, the governor has requested Individual Assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, Utuado, and Yauco; Public Assistance, including direct Federal assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, San German, and Yauco; and Hazard Mitigation for the entire commonwealth.

These earthquakes make it even more unconscionable the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) inaction in disbursing the $8.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding appropriated by the United States Congress for mitigation projects in Puerto Rico. There is no substantive reason to withhold this congressionally-mandated disaster aid for our fellow Americans on the island, and indeed failure to disburse these funds has a damaging material impact on Puerto Rico and its residents. The bottom line is that this money must be made available to Puerto Rico now and failure to do so is in violation of Congress’ explicit intent.

We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with your administration and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.

Sincerely,

 

 

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