Yalies and U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-New Haven, are in agreement: The U.S. government needs to step up its support for Puerto Rico.
DeLauro visited Puerto Rico on Jan. 25 and 26 to be briefed on infrastructure concerns and relief efforts in the wake of the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. And late last month, at a press conference at City Hall to discuss the state of those relief efforts in Puerto Rico, DeLauro said she hopes her trip will help inform Congress’ work passing an $81 billion disaster relief package to bolster the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. At the moment, FEMA’s efforts in Puerto Rico are focused primarily on electricity, infrastructure and health care.
“Keep in mind there were 190-mile-an-hour winds,” DeLauro said at the press conference, according to WNPR. “It’s an island, which makes it more difficult to get services in to, and there were some conditions that existed beforehand in terms of fragile infrastructure that had to be coped with as well.”
DeLauro’s appraisal of the situation was not completely negative. Ninety-five percent of Puerto Rico’s power will be restored this month, while the remaining 5 percent in mountainous regions should be fixed by July, DeLauro said.
Still, in interviews with the News, several Puerto Rican students at Yale questioned the effectiveness of current relief efforts.
Ines Ozonas ’20 said her family home did not have power and had to rely on a generator until early January, while she was in Puerto Rico for the Christmas break. Over a million people on the island are still without power, she noted.
“You don’t just see it in the power sector — the damage is everywhere, like on the roads, even broken bridges,” Ozonas said. “There’s actually a dining hall worker in Silliman who asks me how my family is because his family still doesn’t have power. We were talking about how if this had happened anywhere in the States, it would have been fixed the day after. It’s really sad to see just because [Puerto Rico] doesn’t have the status of the States, we don’t get the same rights.”
Christian Wolpert Gaztambide ’20 said he believes that President Donald Trump administration has been slower than others in pushing for relief efforts and providing funds. While this represents an administrative problem, he said, there are federal agents helping out in Puerto Rico who deserve gratitude.
“The outpouring of sympathy from everyday Americans to their fellow citizens in Puerto Rico has been amazing,” Wolpert Gaztambide said. “The amount of support from the average American is huge, and we’re definitely thankful and touched by that.
Nissim Roffe ’21 said that while he appreciates DeLauro’s efforts, the Puerto Rican people and the government have “lost faith” in Congress and the federal government because of the “discriminatory precedent” set over the past few months.
Roffe said the electrical infrastructure damage will be the most difficult to repair, and that it has largely been ignored since it requires significant financial investment.
The $81-billion supplemental spending bill has passed in the House and is now being deliberated in the Senate.
Jever Mariwala | firstname.lastname@example.org