“We still don’t know why the preparedness and response were so flawed, and we still don’t know the true number of people who died,” said Sen. Warren.
Several members of Congress introduced new legislation to establish an independent commission, similar to the one created after 9/11, to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico.
Rep. Nydia Velázquez, D-N.Y., along with Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, D-M.S., Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-M.A., introduced the bill in both chambers of Congress on Thursday.
The bill seeks to create a bipartisan commission with eight members appointed by Congress that would look at the federal government’s preparedness in responding to the two storms.
Velázquez’s legislation comes at a time when the Puerto Rican government and the Trump administration are facing a backlash over the death count from Hurricane Maria after a recent Harvard study estimated that it could surpass 4,600 — more than 70 times the official death toll of 64.
“The death toll in Puerto Rico is likely staggeringly higher than the official count,” said Velázquez in a statement. “Our legislation would look at how the Trump Administration’s feeble response to this disaster was shaped by the artificially low death toll.”
According to the Puerto Rican government, Hurricane Maria caused $94.4 billion in damages; Congress has allocated about $32 billion in federal aid. A recent analysis from El Nuevo Día, Puerto Rico’s largest newspaper, showed that 9 months after the hurricane, the federal government has only disbursed $3.2 billion — or about 10 percent of the money that has been approved.
“We’ve entered a new hurricane season but we still don’t know why the preparedness and response were so flawed, and we still don’t know the true number of people who died,” said Sen. Warren. “The Commission established by our bill will help provide answers that U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, in Massachusetts, and across the country deserve.”