Pa. rep among Congressional crew responding to disaster in Puerto Rico

February 15, 2020
In The News

U.S. Representative Susan Wild (D-PA-7) is getting a first-person perspective on the damage and devastation in Puerto Rico in an effort to better help those affected by the multitude of earthquakes that struck the island territory over the past few months.

Since Dec. 28, 2019, Puerto Rico’s southern region has been struck by thousands of earthquakes and aftershocks, displacing about 7,500 residents.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, though the island is situated upon “a tectonically active region where earthquakes have occurred for centuries,” residents have not experienced such strong quakes – including at least one that registered a 6.4 magnitude in early January – in over 100 years.

“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico need – and deserve – help to recover from recent earthquakes,” Wild said. “After hearing firsthand accounts of the severity of this devastation from Puerto Rican leaders in my community, it became clear that I needed to get on the ground and see how Congress can best help.”

Wild joined a bicameral, bipartisan delegation of eight other Congressional members on the trip, which was organized by the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Though Wild is not part of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, she requested to join her fellow members of Congress due to the large Puerto Rican population in her constituency.

Committee Chairman Peter A. DeFazio (D-OR-4), Sen. Richard Durbin (D-IL), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN-9), Rep. André Carson (D-IN-7), Rep. Stacey Plaskett (D-VI-At Large), Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR-4), Rep. Jenniffer González-Colón (R-PR-At Large), and Rep. Jesus “Chuy” GarcÍa (D-IL-4) joined Wild in the mission to learn more about the island’s recovery endeavors.

The group arrived in Puerto Rico on Thursday, Feb. 13, and plans to stay through Sunday, Feb. 17.

The delegation is set to meet with Federal Emergency Management Agency and government officials involved with response and recovery efforts over the course of the trip. The group also plans to visit sites impacted by Hurricane Maria and the recent slew of earthquakes to speak with survivors and local politicians struggling with recovery.

“I’m looking forward to hearing from folks about how we can help communities restart school operations, repair damaged roads, address energy needs, and more,” Wild said. “We must do everything we can to provide the relief and support that these communities need for recovery.”

In January, Wild hosted an emergency round-table to address the earthquake recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, calling upon a group of community leaders returning from the island to offer their perspectives and advice. Officials focused upon eyewitness accounts pertaining to what was actually happening in the territory, and offered suggestions regarding Congressional actions to help procure and distribute aid.

On Feb. 7, the U.S. House of Representatives approved a $4.89 billion funding package of emergency recovery aid and additional tax relief for Puerto Rico.

The supplemental spending measure includes $3.3 billion in grant funding for disaster relief, $210 million for the island’s food stamp program, and $18 million for technical assistance to support the territory’s faltering electrical grid.

Releases from the White House have stated that President Donald Trump’s administration strongly opposed the measure, going so far as to suggest that advisers are recommending that the president veto the measure.