U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy will be traveling to Puerto Rico to gather firsthand evidence of the ongoing devastation as they fight to secure comprehensive aid to the island, which was devastated this past fall by a hurricane.
The two Democrats from Connecticut will be in Puerto Rico on Tuesday, Jan. 2, and Wednesday, Jan. 3.
“This trip will shine a glaring light on Puerto Rico’s continuing humanitarian and economic crisis. We are building a compelling, fact-based case for expanded disaster relief — evidence of the need for both an immediate supplemental disaster relief package and the major rebuilding plan I have introduced with Senator Sanders,” Blumenthal said.
It has been 100 days since Hurricane Maria hit, and as of Monday, about half of Puerto Rico was still without power, according to multiple media reports.
According to The Associated Press, the Army Corps of Engineers estimates full power won't be restored until May.
“Since I last visited the island in October, the federal response has been shamefully inadequate. Across Connecticut, I have heard heartbreaking stories from families who have recently arrived and other families still on the island," Blumenthal said. "We cannot allow this administration to abandon fellow Americans and declare mission accomplished while half of Puerto Rico remains in the dark, clean drinking water is unavailable, and thousands of people are living in temporary shelters.”
“While the national media coverage of the disaster has long since waned, the situation in Puerto Rico remains dire," Murphy said. "But Connecticut has not forgotten. It's been 100 days since Maria made landfall, and huge swaths of the island don't have power — a situation that would be unfathomable on the mainland."
In a meeting this fall in Bridgeport, Connecticut residents shared stories of how Hurricane Maria had affected their families. Alma Maya, an aide to Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim, wiped away tears as she spoke of how she persuaded her elderly mother to leave her hurricane-ravaged home in Puerto Rico and make the journey to safety in Bridgeport.
"They feel like their abandoning their country,” she said, but her mother was facing life without water, food, and electricity on the island.
Connecticut has the largest percentage of Puerto Rican residents than any other state, Murphy said. About one-fifth of Bridgeport’s population is Puerto Rican.
Milady Cruz-Fisher of Stratford, who has relatives in Puerto Rico, said she worries the talented and skilled people who are traveling to the States for relief may decide to stay, leaving Puerto Rico lacking the human resources to rebuild.
"We have a lot more work to do. We will be meeting with local officials and seeing firsthand the work left to do. Congress and the administration have failed Puerto Ricans, and I won’t let Washington lose focus of the fact that Puerto Rico needs and deserves more help,” Murphy said.
Their travel itinerary will include:
- Meeting with Ricardo Rossello, governor of Puerto Rico;
- Visiting Hospital UPR to discuss obstacles the hospital is facing in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria and local relief efforts they are coordinating. The hospital has received donated supplies from a coalition of Puerto Rican physicians in Connecticut;
- Visiting a Johnson & Johnson manufacturing facility in Las Piedras to hear how the hurricane has harmed the island economy; and
- Touring the town of Las Piedras with Mayor Miguel Lopez to see evidence of the ongoing humanitarian crisis.
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