Gillibrand, colleagues want billions in aid for Puerto Rico

Rep. Nydia Velázquez was adamant Monday that elected officials in Washington, D.C. fulfill their responsibility to Puerto Ricans struggling in the aftermath of Hurricane Fiona.

“We have a moral obligation. We, the federal government, have a colony in the Caribbean,” she said.

Many on the island were still picking up the pieces after the last hurricane, Maria, hit five years ago when Fiona recently made landfall and devastated Puerto Rico anew.

What You Need To Know

  • Senator penned a letter to colleagues with call for nutrition assistance, disaster relief
  • Gillibrand, Meeks also want foreign relations funding to help the Dominican Republic
  • Democrats additionally want Puerto Rican residents to be eligible for SNAP
  • Democrats stress that Puerto Ricans are fellow Americans and federal government must be at their side

“Even before Hurricane Fiona touched down, thousands of homes in Puerto Rico still had nothing but a blue tarp. Imagine weathering a storm with a blue tarp for a roof,” Sen. Gillibrand said, who hosted Velázquez and Rep. Gregory Meeks at her midtown Manhattan office Monday to call for billions in federal funds to aid the recovery and rebuilding.

Gillibrand penned a letter to colleagues urging the passage of an emergency supplemental appropriations bill, saying, “Puerto Ricans deserve urgent and equitable funding when faced with overwhelming circumstances such as Hurricane Fiona, the COVID-19 pandemic, and the increasing costs of food and other goods that compounded supply issues that the island was already facing.”

She added at the news conference, “These are our brothers and sisters. These are American citizens and we must stand by them in this time of need.”

Meeks said, “And we should make sure that the island of Puerto Rico is treated in the same manner that we would expect any American to be treated on the mainland.”

Gillibrand seeks at least $1 billion to bolster Nutrition Assistance Program funding, $2.9 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund consistent with the Biden administration’s request and additional funding in the upcoming continuing resolution.

She and House members also want to help the hard-hit Dominican Republic.

“What we’re asking for is additional foreign aid money,” Meeks explained.

The Democrats, joined by Frankie Miranda of the Hispanic Federation, also sought longer-term solutions, including eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and shoring up the vulnerable power grid.

These and other measures could help prepare Puerto Rico for the inevitable next dangerous weather event.

“And that’s why we need to go to the appropriations committees and get more money, to make sure that we don’t have to come every hurricane season,” Meeks said. “There’s going to be another.”

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