Speaker Corey Johnson, Black, Latino/a and Asian Caucus and Council Members Mark Hurricane Maria One-Year Anniversary by Calling for an Independent Commission to Investigate the Federal Response to the Disaster

Forty-one council members issued a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to support a bipartisan group to provide a transparent account of the response of the federal government to the tragedy      

City Hall, NY – City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and 40 council members sent a letter to President Donald Trump urging him to establish an independent, bipartisan commission to fully investigate the inadequate response and recovery efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. The letter, released today to mark the one-year anniversary of the colossal storm’s landfall in Puerto Rico, highlights the double standard from the Trump Administration when comparing the response to Hurricane Maria with the response to Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

In one example cited in the letter, the Council pointed out that after Harvey struck, 73 helicopters had been deployed to Texas within six days, while it took three weeks for a similar response in Puerto Rico. The Council also asked why the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provided 5.1 million meals in the first nine days of Harvey, while the federal agency had only distributed 1.6 million meals in Puerto Rico in the same period of time.

Speaker Johnson and council members Diana Ayala, Carlina Rivera and Rafael Salamanca will also be introducing a resolution at the next Council’s Stated meeting on Sept. 26 that calls on Congress to pass, and for President Trump to sign, HR 6103/S. 3076. The legislation would create a commission on the federal response to Hurricane Maria.

In the letter sent to President Trump, Speaker Johnson and the council members point out that, “Clearly, what we require right now is a transparent inquiry examining the rollout and effectiveness of the government’s disaster relief efforts.”

“We call on you to establish a national commission to thoroughly investigate your administration’s response to the disaster and publicly report on its findings,” the letter states.

“Puerto Rico was struck twice by tragedy. First, by the natural disaster, and then by a man-made disaster due to the poor and inadequate response and recovery efforts by the Trump Administration. It appears that the federal government’s reaction to the aftermath of Hurricane Maria was much slower than the one to Hurricane Harvey, and we are demanding to know why. Even to this day, President Trump and his administration continue to underplay the massive effects of this hurricane and won’t admit that the disaster left about 3,000 Americans dead,” said Speaker Johnson. “Simply put, the federal government failed our fellow Americans, and neglected Puerto Rico.”

“Approximately three thousand lives were lost to Hurricane Maria because of President Trump’s inadequate response to the disaster. A year later, Puerto Ricans living on both the island and in the United States continue to grapple with the ramifications triggered by this devastating storm, including displacement, job loss, and mental illness,” said Council Member Diana Ayala. “Unsurprisingly, The White House continues to minimize the pain of our people by rejecting the death toll, which renders Hurricane Maria one of the deadliest incidents in recent U.S. history. To avoid mismanagement of future storms, it is critical an independent commission be convened to scrutinize the federal government’s response to this catastrophe.”

“As we commemorate the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s devastating landfall in Puerto Rico, it is imperative that all levels of government, starting with the Federal, recognize that we have failed the millions living on the island, as well as those that have been displaced and relocated,” said Councilwoman Carlina Rivera. “Now is the time to course-correct and use our investigatory powers, political will and resources to renew our focus on rebuilding efforts. Though an apology would never suffice for the neglect and disregard for Puerto Ricans shown by our leadership in the White House, we have yet to hear even a shred of remorse from President Trump. This administration must take steps to support our fellow Americans, while acknowledging and compensating for the death of thousands on its watch.”

“With nearly 3,000 lives lost, thousands displaced, and potentially $139 billion needed to rebuild the Island, it is undeniable that Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico this past year,” said Council Member Rafael Salamanca Jr. “The federal government’s disgraceful response was woefully insufficient, offensive, and damaging to Puerto Ricans, but New Yorkers did not forget about our Puerto Rican family. We will continue to help those in need, from finding housing to job placement, and demand that a national commission be formed to assess the Trump administration’s response to this disaster. I commend the tireless efforts of the providers who have worked day and night to ensure these families receive the care and attention they need in the face of all this trauma. Puerto Rico, we stand with you.”

“This White House is waging an absurd and deeply offensive campaign to absolve itself of its failure to respond to the devastation left in Hurricane Maria’s wake,” said Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus co-chair, Council Member I. Daneek Miller. “There are now multiple estimates indicating no fewer than 3,000 Americans died in Puerto Rico. Congress can neither ignore these findings nor shirk its responsibility to hold this Administration accountable for its ineptitude. I join my colleagues in calling for the immediate passage of the National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act of 2018. The people of Puerto Rico have been suffering for more than a year now. The least our government can do is give them answers for why it allowed so many of their fellow residents to die.”

“The United States has an obligation to Puerto Rico and all territories to be proactive in taking measures to protect the lives of people in advance of a well-publicized extreme weather event- and reactive to immediately mitigate damage, provide health care and rebuild infrastructure.  Most important are the lives of the people, especially those in remote areas, who suffered the most and whose daily lives are still not restored to normalcy.  I know because I’ve been there.  One year later, we are calling on our federal government act morally and humanely to take care of Americans, wherever they are,” said Council Member Fernando Cabrera.

“When Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico, Americans from Louisiana to the Lower East Side joined together to help people on the island recover. That spirit of generosity was overshadowed, however, by a federal government that seemed more concerned about downplaying the severity of the damage, the threat to public health, and even the number of Puerto Ricans who died as a result of the storm,” said Council Member Margaret S. Chin. “That is why I am proud to stand with Speaker Johnson and my Council colleagues to call on Congress to hold the Trump Administration accountable for its failure to help the people of Puerto Rico in their time of need. The memory of over 3,000 Americans who died under President Trump’s watch demands nothing less than a full reckoning of the truth.”

“News reports of thousands of bottles of FEMA water abandoned in Puerto Rico on an unused runway for almost nine months while fellow Americans on the island cry out for drinking water is evidence of bias treatment,  feeding toward hatred, and necessitates the appointment of a special commission,” said Council Member Andy King. “As we look at the decisions that are made or not made we can’t brush over matters lightly. The point is, we see that our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and the USVI have not been treated fairly and equal to those devastated by hurricanes in Texas, and, most recently, the Carolinas.”

“Hurricane Maria brought devastation and destruction to Puerto Rico, and sadly the Trump administration has done little to help our fellow Americans in their time of great need. We need an independent commission to investigate the Trump administration’s callous and pathetic response to this disaster, and provide detailed findings to the public,” said Council Member Rory I. Lancman.

“The president has shut his eyes and covered his ears to the blatant reality that his administration failed to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico,” said Council Member Costa Constantinides. “We in New York City know too well that extreme weather can cause emotional damage that is just as severe as physical destruction. The people of Puerto Rico are entitled to a full investigation into the federal government’s response, as well as an acknowledgement that this was one of the deadliest storms the island ever faced.”

“The American people deserve transparency. The Trump Administration has never acted in good faith in response to Hurricane Maria and what has been done for the people of Puerto Rico. As the Council Member representing President Trump, I join Speaker Johnson’s call to establish a national commission to investigate the administration’s response to this disaster, and am proud to join him in providing a voice for those without one,” said Council Member Keith Powers.

“The federal response to Hurricane Maria was an absolute disaster due to the Trump Administration’s lack of leadership and the absence of a comprehensive plan, which lead to nearly 3,000 deaths in Puerto Rico. The fact that we failed to provide emergency assistance to our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico while being one of the largest economies in the world, is completely unacceptable. My extended family unnecessarily lost loved ones for lack of medical care and basic needs– like water, food and electricity, for many months on end. As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Maria approaches, I strongly support the City’s efforts to advocate that Congress pass HR. 6103 and S. 3076, which will create a commission to hold the current Administration accountable for the 2017 natural disaster in Puerto Rico,” said Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez.

“President Trump’s response to the devastation that Hurricane Maria unleashed on Puerto Rico has been an abject disgrace. From glibly tossing rolls of paper towels to desperate American citizens — as if all the island needed to soak up the flood water was enough two-ply — to denying the reality that nearly 3,000 people died as a direct result of his administration’s failure to respond to the disaster with proportional urgency, Trump has only reinforced the notion that he is not fit for the demands of his office. I fully support establishing a national commission to investigate this administration’s response to this disaster to understand what went wrong and prevent similar mistakes in the future,” said Council Member Francisco Moya.

 

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