As we near the three-year anniversary of Hurricanes Maria and Irma slamming Puerto Rico, we remember the 3000 lives lost and more than $100 billion in damages across the island.
The White House announced on Friday that FEMA will award $13 billion in Puerto Rico disaster aid to rebuild the power grid and schools. The President also said he supported the call of Puerto Rico's religious leaders and Jubilee USA to bring pharmaceutical jobs back to the island.
You made this possible because of the tens of thousands of e-mails, phone calls and letters you sent to the White House and Congress since the hurricanes hit. Now - three years after the hurricanes hit, Puerto Rico is still trying to recover and wrestles with a debt crisis. Please join me and call your Senators to approve the remaining relief that Puerto Rico needs.
Since 2015, Puerto Rico's religious leaders and Jubilee USA pressed Congress and the White House on debt relief. When Hurricanes Maria and Irma decimated Puerto Rico in 2017, disaster recovery efforts became intertwined with debt relief.
Because of our work together with Puerto Rico's religious leaders, we've won $44 billion in relief aid. With Friday's White House announcement, $26 billion of those $44 billion are now moving forward.
Call the Senate now. We need to move forward the rest of the relief we won and move forward an estimated $50 to $80 billion in disaster assistance. The Senate is considering proposals to reduce Puerto Rico's child poverty rate and job creation.
The US Territory dealt with a series of earthquakes earlier this year and continues to wrestle with the coronavirus pandemic.
Puerto Rico needs Senate action to rebuild from hurricanes, multiple natural disasters, a debt crisis and rising joblessness and poverty. In order to fully recover, Puerto Rico will need more disaster aid and debt relief.
Last July, 11 religious leaders representing more than 95% of Puerto Rico’s population wrote Congress on the growing challenges facing the island. The letter asked for additional disaster recovery monies, measures to bring back pharmaceutical manufacturing jobs to Puerto Rico and the authorization of $1.2 billion for Nutrition Assistance Program benefits that impact 1.5 million people on the island. The letter was signed by leaders of the Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran, Christian (Disciples) and Evangelical Churches. The Puerto Rico Council of Churches, Catholic Charities (Caritas) and the General Bible Society also added their names to the letter to Congress.
Puerto Rico's debt crisis and natural disaster vulnerabilities are flip sides of the same coin. Debt crisis solutions must ensure Puerto Rico is prepared to respond, withstand and recover from natural disasters and external shocks.
Your actions continue to make a big difference and as the Senate considers a range of Puerto Rico proposals, your action is needed now.
Up to this day, thousands of family homes remain damaged or destroyed, with residents living under blue tarp roofs. Please call your Senators and urge them to act.
Senior Director of Policy and Campaigns
Jubilee USA Network