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After Hurricane Fiona, Gillibrand Calls For Billions In Comprehensive Federal Relief For Puerto Rico

Government and Politics

September 26, 2022


A week after Hurricane Fiona devastated Puerto Rico, leaving at least 16 people dead and hundreds of thousands more without power or running water, today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand stood in Midtown Manhattan to call for billions in federal economic relief for the island. Gillibrand is urging congressional leadership to provide emergency supplemental funding for disaster recovery and relief support as well as $1 billion in nutritional aid for Puerto Rico. She is also asking the Biden administration to provide robust humanitarian aid and disaster relief for the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricane Fiona. Gillibrand was joined in Midtown by U.S. Representatives Nydia Velázquez and Gregory Meeks and President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation Frankie Miranda.

“Over the past few years, Puerto Rico has faced crisis after crisis,” said Senator Gillibrand. “In 2017, Hurricane Maria killed thousands of people and flattened entire neighborhoods. Supply chain disruptions from COVID and rising prices have left too many Puerto Ricans without enough to eat. And now, even before the island had a chance to recover from the last hurricane, Puerto Rico is again facing devastating flooding and crippling damage to its critical infrastructure. I’m urging Congress and the Biden administration to provide both immediate humanitarian relief and funding for long-term investments in the resiliency of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and other key infrastructure. This is an emergency and we must act now to help Puerto Ricans begin the long road to recovery.”

“The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens who are suffering from the cruel timing of a catastrophic hurricane exactly five years after Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and caused massive migration off the island,” said Representative Nydia Velázquez, Chair of House Small Business Committee (NY-7). “To help Puerto Rico recover from Fiona, the federal government must step up to aid the over one million people struggling to secure power, shelter, and access to food. In this letter, we are requesting immediate federal aid including $1 billion in nutritional assistance alongside a comprehensive disaster relief supplemental bill to go to Puerto Rico. Together, these and other immediate relief measures can bring hope and light amongst the darkness and suffering.”

“Hurricane Fiona has left a trail of devastation in its wake, pummeling infrastructure, destroying homes and businesses, and leaving families still without power. I’m proud to work with Senator Gillibrand on delivering urgent relief to Puerto Rico, including nutrition assistance and other necessary disaster funds,” said Representative Gregory Meeks, Chair of House Foreign Affairs Committee (NY-5). “As Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I’m focused on ensuring U.S. humanitarian assistance will reach our neighbors impacted by Fiona, including the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean islands. As climate change increases both the frequency and severity of extreme weather events, the US must be prepared to act swiftly in delivering aid to our states and territories, and neighbors in the hemisphere.”

“Following Hurricane Fiona, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic need support to recover from the devastation. New Yorkers will continue to be there every step along the way,” said Representative Adriano Espaillat, Member of House Appropriations Committee (NY-13).  “I commend Senator Gillibrand for her ongoing efforts to keep Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic at the forefront of discussions to reaffirm our commitment to uplifting the Caribbean at a time where disaster relief efforts are critical to the livelihood of residents on both islands. I remain dedicated to working with my congressional colleagues and our brothers and sisters in the Caribbean to help repair and rebuild during this critical time.”

“The exclusion of Puerto Rico from SNAP and other essential federal programs like SSI that support our nation’s most vulnerable, continues to affect the economic stability and progress of children, families, and individuals residing on the island,” said Frankie Miranda, president and CEO of Hispanic Federation. “We are grateful to Senator Gillibrand and other leaders for recognizing the detrimental impact of these longstanding and systemic disparities, particularly when Puerto Rico is now facing devastating damage from Hurricane Fiona. Since Hurricane Maria, the Hispanic Federation has been working on the ground and in Washington D.C. to rebuild a more resilient Puerto Rico. We know how critical the emergency appropriations request of $1 billion for nutrition aid is to combat hunger and food insecurity given so many losses to families on the island.  In addition, our brothers and sisters in the Dominican Republic were deeply affected by Hurricane Fiona and we urge Congress to also respond with aid to our sister country.”

“For over 40 years, Puerto Rico’s children, elderly and families have been deeply hurt by their exclusion from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  Legislating Puerto Rico into a capped federal block grant in 1981 resulted in chronic underfunding and a loss of billions of dollars to fight food insecurity,” said Lillian Rodriguez Lopez, Director of Coalition for Food Security. “With Hurricane Fiona creating catastrophic damage like Hurricane Maria before her, Puerto Rico has no access to USDA’s disaster SNAP, a federal program with immediate access to emergency nutrition aid.  Senator Gillibrand and other leaders in Congress are calling for Puerto Rico to immediately receive $1B in emergency nutrition aid and to remedy the inequity and disparities for American citizens residing on the island by introducing a bill to include Puerto Rico in SNAP.”

Since Fiona made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 18, 2022, mudslides, floods, fallen trees, and power outages have devastated the island and left hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans without power, food, or water. The island is in dire need of robust immediate and long-term assistance in order to recover from Fiona and to upgrade its infrastructure to be resilient against future hurricanes. In her letter to congressional leadership, Gillibrand is urging Congress to:

    Support $1 billion in Nutrition Assistance Program funding in order to continue feeding Puerto Ricans who were already suffering from high food costs and supply issues prior to the landfall of Hurricane Fiona.

    Pass emergency supplemental funding as soon as possible in order to provide disaster recovery and relief support to the people of Puerto Rico, including at least $2.9 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund.  

    Pass the Continuing Resolution with an anomaly for Puerto Rico to further contribute to its recovery and resilience.

The letter was also signed by Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM).

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to congressional leadership is available here.

Gillibrand is also calling for robust humanitarian assistance for the Dominican Republic, Turks and Caicos, Guadeloupe, and other Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricane Fiona. At least 2 Dominicans have died from the storm, at least 12,000 Dominicans have been forced from their homes, and at least 700,000 Dominicans were left without power. Gillibrand is urging the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to rapidly provide food, water, shelter, health care, emergency telecommunications services, utility services, and all other relevant forms of aid to the Dominican Republic and its neighbors.

The bicameral letter was also signed by Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY-5) and Adriano Espaillat (D-NY-13).

The full text of Senator Gillibrand’s letter to Administrator of the United States Agency for International Development Samantha Power is available here