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Neal Joins Colleagues in Letter Urging Trump Administration to Issue Major Disaster Declaration Following Earthquakes in Puerto Rico

January 10, 2020
Press Release

Washington, DC –Congressman Richard E. Neal joined a bipartisan group of 56 colleagues in sending a letter to President Trump urging the Administration to issue a major disaster declaration after two earthquakes struck Puerto Rico earlier this week. The Governor of Puerto Rico, Wanda Vázquez, will be asking the Administration to issue a major disaster declaration. This declaration would facilitate access to critical emergency assistance from the federal government, including hazard mitigation assistance, assistance for individuals, and aid for government agencies on the island.

“On January 6 and January 7, two earthquakes of 5.8 and 6.4 magnitude, respectively, struck Puerto Rico—the worst earthquakes to hit the island in more than a century.  While we do not have a full assessment of the amount of damages sustained, the damage appears to be quite significant. Several public facilities, including a school and a church, have collapsed, and numerous others have sustained serious structural damage and cannot be occupied safely.  In addition, dozens of homes have collapsed; while some public housing and condominiums face a similar danger.  This has left hundreds of people homeless, and thousands sleeping in parks, on sidewalks, or in their own vehicles.    Some hospitals and at least one senior citizen nursing home facility have had to evacuate their patients as a result of this natural disaster,” the members said in the letter.

“The people of Puerto Rico need robust assistance at this hour of great need and it is incumbent upon us to help in every manner possible.  We believe that granting a major disaster declaration for the island would help meet the needs of the Puerto Ricans affected by these earthquakes,” they added.

The letter was signed by:

Reps. Hoyer, González Colón, Meng, Espaillat, Grijalva, Murphy, Soto, Hastings, Rouda, Butterfield, Boyle, Ocasio-Cortez, Schakowsky, Pascrell, Jr., Norton, Velazquez, Young, Bacon, Gabbard, Morelle, Kaptur, Neal, B. Maloney, “Chuy” Garcia, Lieu, Shalala, Murcarsel-Powell, Wild, Clay, Suozzi, Max Rose, Welch, Al Green, DeGetter, Himes, Cisneros, Jr., Torres, Wasserman Shultz, Pocan, P. Maloney, Correa, R. Garcia, Wilson, DeLauro, Crist, Clark, Kennedy III, Wexton, Cartwright, Schneider, Aguilar, McGovern, Davis, Lowey, Sires, Nadler.

Full text of the letter below:

January 10, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump

President of the United States

The White House

Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write in strong support of the Governor of Puerto Rico’s expected request for a major disaster declaration as a result of the earthquakes and tremors affecting the island since December 28, 2019. 

On January 6 and January 7, two earthquakes of 5.8 and 6.4 magnitude, respectively, struck Puerto Rico—the worst earthquakes to hit the island in more than a century.  While we do not have a full assessment of the amount of damages sustained, the damage appears to be quite significant. Several public facilities, including a school and a church, have collapsed, and numerous others have sustained serious structural damage and cannot be occupied safely.  In addition, dozens of homes have collapsed; while some public housing and condominiums face a similar danger.  This has left hundreds of people homeless, and thousands sleeping in parks, on sidewalks, or in their own vehicles.    Some hospitals and at least one senior citizen nursing home facility have had to evacuate their patients as a result of this natural disaster.  Finally, nearly one million Puerto Ricans do not have electricity in their homes as a result of severe damage sustained by the island’s largest electricity-producing power plant—Costa Sur.

This is a moment of great distress for the people of Puerto Rico, it is imperative that the federal government provide all the resources necessary to save lives, ensure public health and safety, and to help thousands of persons to recover their losses of property and jobs, as a result of this disaster.

Moreover, these earthquakes have compounded already existing problems as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria.   More than two years later, the residents of Puerto Rico are still recovering from the devastating impacts of these previous natural disasters.  Federal assistance was slow at that time and most of the funds appropriated by the Congress have yet to be disbursed by the Administration.  It is our obligation to ensure that this does not happen again, and that robust assistance is provided to the affected American citizens residing on the island.

The people of Puerto Rico need robust assistance at this hour of great need and it is incumbent upon us to help in every manner possible.  We believe that granting a major disaster declaration for the island would help meet the needs of the Puerto Ricans affected by these earthquakes. Thank you for your attention to this matter and we look forward to your response.

                                                               Sincerely,

                                         

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