It’s been 10 months – nearly one year – since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The federal response has been appalling. Many Puerto Ricans still lack reliable electricity, clean water, or medical care. Many people are still living in homes with tarps as roofs.
For months, I’ve heard from people across Massachusetts and around the country who are desperately worried about their loved ones back home. Thousands of Puerto Ricans have been forced to abandon their homes and leave for the mainland United States.
Rebuilding efforts have been slow. A big reason why: Long before the hurricanes hit, Puerto Rico was already being crushed with debt that had been snapped up by Wall Street vulture funds. Few investors now want to put money into reconstruction if the debt means the islands don’t have a realistic chance at recovering.
This week, Senator Bernie Sanders and I introduced the U.S. Territorial Relief Act – comprehensive debt relief legislation for Puerto Rico and other disaster-ravaged U.S. territories so they can get back on their feet and recover with dignity.
We’ve been using every tool in our toolbox to fight for the people of Puerto Rico:
- Two weeks ago, along with Senators Bob Menendez, Sherrod Brown, and Catherine Cortez Masto, I questioned CFPB nominee Kathy Kraninger about her role in the botched response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. I’m still waiting for those answers.
- Last month, I introduced legislation with Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Nydia Velazquez, and Rep. Bennie Thompson to establish a 9/11-style independent commission to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico.
- In May, I cosponsored a bill that would require FEMA and HUD to activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program in Puerto Rico – the same program they activated after Katrina and Sandy to help provide stable housing for survivors.
- I have repeatedly pushed FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services about their inability or unwillingness to ensure an accurate death toll in Puerto Rico, which hurts our ability to prepare for future disasters and prevents victims from receiving important benefits.
- And in November 2017, I introduced a comprehensive plan along with Senator Bernie Sanders and colleagues to address the immediate humanitarian needs in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and ensure that the islands not only recover, but are able to rebuild in a way that empowers them to thrive.
But we also cannot allow people to suffer while Wall Street vulture funds block or delay Puerto Rico’s recovery. I’ve been fighting for debt relief for Puerto Rico for years – and they need it now more than ever.
This is about more than just economics. It’s about our values. It’s about who we are as a people, and what kind of a country we want to be.
We won’t stop fighting until the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands get the debt relief they need to get back on their feet. Add your name here to say you agree – and demand that Congress pass the U.S. Territorial Relief Act.