September 28, 2017

Rep. Watson Coleman Urges Trump Administration to Send Immediate Relief Assistance to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands

Today, Congresswoman Bonnie Watson Coleman released the following statement on the delayed relief efforts to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands following Hurricane Maria:

“A week ago, our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, were devastated by the damage caused by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Disabled trade and the lack of essential food supplies has created the conditions for starvation, disease and potential civil unrest for the more than 100,000 residents of the U.S.Virgin Islands and currently, nearly half of Puerto Rico’s 3.5 million residents are without clean drinking water. We know that the road to recovery is extremely difficult - although there are 15 recognized ports on Puerto Rico, only three are suitable for the delivery of relief supplies.  Of those three, only one in San Juan is open, but only during daylight hours due to power and lighting issues.

Millions of our fellow citizens are in need of immediate assistance and have been seemingly ignored by this Administration and majority leaders in Congress.

I have heard from many New Jerseyans with family and loved ones in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands that are frustrated with the lack of appropriate response by the Trump Administration. I share their concerns and have taken several steps to address these emergencies. Today I, alongside many of my colleagues, sent letters to the President and his Chief of Staff, General John Kelly to demand that every available Federal resource is brought bear assistance to these U.S. territories, propose an interim supplemental relief package for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and request the appointment of a senior general officer to manage a joint response and recovery efforts on the ground.

Additionally, I, along with Democrats on the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter expressing our serious concern to the inadequate federal response to these disasters, calling for greater emergency aid, and the establishment of a Rebuilding Task Force to help rebuild the areas affected by this season’s hurricanes. My staff has also been in direct contact with FEMA for updates on the situation and we will provide updates for my constituents as we have them.

The U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, territories whose residents pay federal taxes while being denied the right to vote, are Americans and we have a legal and moral obligation to protect its citizens from threats to their well-being. It is time to take a break from Twitter antics and hollow statements and save the lives of Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands – they must know they have not been forgotten. I stand ready to do all I can to provide relief for the victims of these disasters.”