Mobile Menu - OpenMobile Menu - Closed

Congressman Richard Neal

Representing the 1st District of Massachusetts

Connect

House Members Demand Trump Provide Better Maria Response

September 27, 2017
Press Release
145 Lawmakers Call on Department of Defense to Deploy Life-Saving Resources

Washington, D.C. — Today, Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) led 145 Members of Congress in writing to President Trump, demanding that the Department of Defense deploy additional resources to aid recovery efforts in Puerto Rico. Lawmakers are calling for the appointment of a senior general to oversee all recovery efforts, the deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier and to increase personnel to assist local law enforcement.

“3.5 million American citizens in Puerto Rico are facing a dire humanitarian crisis,” said Velázquez. “I have heard from seniors whose medical needs are not being met due to power outages, children who are suffering from extreme heat in the crowded airport and families who are still unable to contact their loved ones. These are matters of life and death.”

“While the situation on the ground remains desperate, President Trump held a press conference yesterday congratulating his Administration on their response,” Velázquez added.  “If President Trump doesn’t swiftly deploy every available resource that our country has, then he has failed the people of Puerto Rico -- and this will become his Katrina. Every second in this effort counts and the stakes are too high for further delay, inaction or inefficiency.”

The full text of the letter is below and online here with a list of signatories. 

For a PDF, click here.

 

September 27, 2017

President Donald J. Trump

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Trump:

On September 20th, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands endured a direct impact from Hurricane Maria. With winds up to 160 mph, Hurricane Maria devastated these islands, caused significant power outages, destroyed telecommunications infrastructure, and thereby paralyzed the region. Given the impact of the damage and the population of 3.6 million American citizens affected, we are concerned that federal efforts to date have been insufficient to address the severity of the situation. We know there are DOD elements helping today, and all the service members involved are working very hard, but we are concerned that the scale of DOD assets supporting the operation are inadequate. Thus, we write to urge you to further mobilize the Department of Defense to immediately deploy additional assets in support of Puerto Rican and U.S. Virgin Island recovery efforts.

As you know, the Department of Defense has additional capabilities that could help alleviate suffering in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and prevent this catastrophe from worsening. First and foremost, a senior general officer must be appointed to work with FEMA to manage a joint response assist with the recovery effort on the ground, and enable local constituencies to have a single point of contact. This was done in response to Hurricane Katrina, and we feel the same approach is warranted now for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

As we are sure you are aware, in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, there are numerous municipalities that are inaccessible from the ground, which is where DOD engineer and aviation assets would be most helpful. With millions of U.S. citizens stranded in remote areas without basic necessities, engineers are needed first to clear the roads. Additional aviation assets are needed to get relief supplies to isolated locations. Additionally, substantial ground and air logistics support is required to get aid to the islands, rescue stranded citizens, and provide them with supplies and thereafter assist with the restoration of power and telecommunications infrastructure if needed. To fulfill DOD's mission, we believe the aircraft carrier, USS Abraham Lincoln, should be sent to the region, similar to its deployment to Miami following Hurricane Irma.

DHS has indicated it has "provided more than 1.5 million meals, 1.1 million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits, and nearly 12,000 emergency roofing kits to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico since Hurricane Maria's landfall." While these meals and resources are profoundly needed, unfortunately, there is a large portion of the population that has been underserved.

Lastly, DOD has critical resources that could assist with addressing security issues. We have heard reports that the ongoing supply shortages are causing looting and crime. We were recently informed of armed gangs ransacking a warehouse that distributes food and supplies. Defense Department personnel could provide essential support to local law enforcement in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to ensure relief supplies are delivered to those most in need- and that those that have already been immensely devastated by the hurricane, do not need to fear for their lives when filling up their gas at the pump or securing food for their family.

We thank you for your immediate attention to this matter. Please feel free to contact us with any questions.

We look forward to your timely response.

Sincerely,

Nydia M. Velazquez

 

Smith

Hoyer

Crowley

Lawson

Nadler

Holmes Norton

Wasserman Schultz

Meeks

Linda Sanchez

Higgins

Sires

Evans

Raskin

Napolitano

Meng

Roybal-Allard

Castro

Capuano

Dingell

Quigley

Larson

Thompson

Watson Coleman

Carolyn Maloney

Frederica Wilson

DeGette

Deutch

Kildee

Carbajal

Matsui

Langevin

Takano

Price

McCollum

Welch

Doyle

Adams

Crist

Tsongas

Engel

Veasey

Hanabusa

Schakowsky

Cohen

Blumenauer

Connolly

Sablan

Murphy

Lowey

Slaughter

McGovern

DeLauro

Torres

Pallone

Castor

Gomez

Tonko

Norcross

Correa

Sean Patrick Maloney

Polis

Serrano

Costa

Lujan

Cleaver

Shea-Porter

Blunt Rochester

Robert Brady

Barragan

Chu

Castor

Beyer

Jackson Lee

Lee

Demings

Yarmuth

Boyle

Neal

Lowenthal

Beatty

O’Halleran

Gutiérrez

Moulton

Espaillat

Bonamici

Himes

Ryan

Cicilline

Kaptur

Kilmer

Rice

Lipinski

Schneider

Soto

Suozzi

Ellison

Courtney

Speier

Cárdenas

Keating

Pascrell, Jr.

Clarke

Waltz

Heck

Lowey

Gabbard

Titus

Lujan Grisham

Clay

Carson

DeSaulnier

McEachin

Foster

Al Green

Plaskett

Schiff

Payne, Jr.

Sarbanes

Pingree

Lawrence

Lynch

Lieu

Kennedy

Scott Peters

Jefferies

Grijalva

Delaney

Bustos

David Scott

Brownley

Gene Green

Bass

Cummings

Doggett

Khanna

Calderon

Eshoo

Vargas

Susan Davis

Aguilar

Bobby scott

Panetta

Visclosky

Gallego

Bera

 

Cc: The Honorable James Mattis, Secretary of Defense