Wednesday, December 8, 2021

US House speaker flies over hurricane-devastated Puerto Rico

By on October 13, 2017

Marine One helicopter carrying President Donald Trump surveys areas impacted by Hurricane Maria, Tuesday, Oct. 3, 2017, near San Juan, Puerto Rico. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

SAN JUAN – The speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan, arrived in Puerto Rico Friday accompanied by members of the Appropriations Committee and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.

The group is in charge of evaluating and potentially approving federal aid to address the emergency caused by Hurricane María’s relentless onslaught 23 days ago. They were flying on helicopter over the mountain region and will meet with Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and heads of federal agencies on the island. In addition, the members of Congress are expected to share their impressions with several mayors and first- response officials.

The delegation is composed of Rep. Cathy McMorris (R-WA), the fourth-ranking House Republican; House Appropriations Committee Chairman Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ); and Democratic spokeswoman on the Appropriations Committee, Nita Lowey.

This is the third congressional delegation that travels to Puerto Rico to witness the damages suffered after hurricanes Irma and María. Earlier this week, González stressed that the congressional leadership’s presence on the island is important so they learn of its needs and expedite the approval of resources.

Last week, President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence also visited the island.

On Thursday, the the U.S. House approved an initial resolution to provide liquidity to the government of Puerto Rico and prevent that both its operation and essential services are affected as a result of the emergency the island is going through after Hurricane María.

Puerto Rico governor responds to Trump tweets about federal presence on island

The Additional Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief Requirements Act (H.R. 2266) allocates $35 billion for emergencies, primarily for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to handle disasters in both Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Of that amount, $4.9 billion will be FEMA loans that will be available to Puerto Rico and the USVI, with the idea of replacing lost revenue. The bill should be considered in the Senate next week.

This aid is expected to be followed by the approval of additional allocations before Dec. 8, including a multimillion-dollar package for the long-term reconstruction of the island’s infrastructure.

The government is still assessing the magnitude of the damages sustained by the hurricane, which is essential for long-term-aid requests. So far, loss estimates range from $20 billion to $95 billion.

Three weeks after the hurricane, 85% of the island remains without electricity and 44% has no access to potable water. In addition, fixed- and wireless telecommunications problems persist, especially in the central region, one of the most affected by the storm’s winds. Nor has the problem of food supplies to the victims been completely overcome.

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