Become the Voice of 3.5 million of Puerto Ricans affected by Hurricane Maria!
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Voice of Puerto Rico is a grassroots network of volunteers composed of economists, environmentalists, lawyers, law enforcement officials, mental health professionals, researchers, scientist, spiritual leaders, and students. In order for Puerto Rico to fully recover from this terrible disaster, we should use our resources and skills to become a voice for the 3.5 voiceless Americans residing in the island of Puerto Rico. We also represent the sentiments of approximately 100,000 Puerto Ricans residing in the State of Virginia per the (US Census), whom after several weeks trying to reach our families we still feel hopeless and defenseless towards this mass devastation.
We are doing this because, as you might already know early on September 20th, 2017 a powerful category 4 with winds of 150 mph, Hurricane Maria made landfall in the US Territory of Puerto Rico. As result, 3.5 million US Citizens have become victims of one of the worst humanitarian crisis in modern history. Several weeks after the storm, these US Citizens, who can travel freely into the United States and can vote in the Presidential primaries plus are protected by the same Bills of Rights as any other American born citizens of the United States, are not receiving the support they deserve. There are little power, potable water, and many towns are yet to receive any support. These American Citizens of what was once a flourishing island, are lacking the most basic needs, which are the essential access to food and water, medical accessibilities, and educational services. It is estimated that the power in Puerto Rico will be out for months and the communications in the island are strained. Damages in the infrastructure of the island have made it difficult for the average citizen to travel. Most hospitals are running on generators with limited amounts of fuel and supplies. There has been over a hundred death accounted for but the numbers keep increasing and rising as they keep clearing the debris and rubble from town to town. Experts believe the death toll could reach into the hundreds. Some 4,500 troops and National Guard members are on the ground in Puerto Rico assisting with the efforts to distribute goods and help with services. The Coast Guard and Army Corps of Engineers are working to reopen more ports on the islands, as well as FEMA has more than 800 people on the ground coordinating relief efforts. There have been reports that millions of meals and millions of liters of water have been distributed within the island each day and more try to arrive per each day. On September 26, the US Navy announced the USNS Comfort, a combat surgical hospital ship, was in route to Puerto Rico.Despite the current military, FEMA presence, assistance aid and recovery efforts they are not sufficiently reaching those who need it the most. Making the humanitarian crisis decline every day.
How can Congress help? They can help help develop and support a comprehensive recovery package that must included the following:
-Immediate Goals: Increase spending and oversight of FEMA and other aid organizations to help restore the island. Current relief efforts are inefficient and inadequate. Rural areas of PR are, not only without power and/or roof, but are also needing food, clean water, items of first need, and medical and mental health assistance. It is also important that FEMA and other relief entities continue to improve its efficiencies in the island.
-Short-Term Goals: Lift the Jones Act, for a minimum of 6 months, to allow neighboring countries to provide support. Lifting the Jones Act in a permanent way will allow Puerto Rico to trade with neighboring countries without the double taxation the Jones Act creates, as well as boosting the tourism industry.
-Long Term Goals: Implement a Marshall Plan, similar to the one implemented in Europe after WWII.A comprehensive plan for helping rebuild the island will be needed in Puerto Rico to bring the island back to a healthy state.
Why is this important?
We have learned from similar natural disasters such as Katrina and Sandy that it is important to recognize when recovery efforts are not succeeding. Not duplicating the same mistakes is a key component to avoid failure, eliminate corruption and waste.
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