Puerto Rico needs federal aid now, more than ever

The Immaculate Concepcion Catholic church lies in ruins after an overnight earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.
The Immaculate Concepcion Catholic church lies in ruins after an overnight earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.
Carlos Giusti/AP/Shutterstock
The Immaculate Concepcion Catholic church lies in ruins after an overnight earthquake in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico.

Puerto Rico needs federal aid now, more than ever

As the island faces another natural disaster, New York politicians ask President Donald Trump to release its promised aid.
January 8, 2020

Early Monday morning, a series of earthquakes wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico.

The natural wonder Punta Ventana, a rock formation, was destroyed, as were schools, churches and homes. The earthquakes caused the death of one person and injured several others. And the island’s residents were widely left without power and water

A second 6.4-magnitude earthquake – possibly the worst earthquake Puerto Rico has experienced in a century – hit the island on Tuesday, which caused significant damage to the island’s power plants and resulted in a power outage that affected 97% of the island. Power was restored to half a million of the island’s 1.5 million power users on Wednesday morning, but the service is expected to be unreliable in the weeks to come.

Reporters located on the island have been documenting the damage that has resulted from these earthquakes. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo, quickly responded to the natural disaster on Monday, announcing that the New York Power Authority would be deployed to the island, as it had been after Hurricane Maria in 2017. During his State of the State address on Wednesday, the governor mentioned the earthquake at the beginning of his speech and said he plans to return to the island. 

Former New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito told City & State that the state’s response to the natural disaster makes sense, considering the state’s historically close bond with the island and its past and present efforts to help it rebuild after Hurricane Maria. “Between the city and the state, they both have stepped up in different ways whenever there has been an emergency on the island,” Mark-Viverito said over the phone. 

It’s possible that the damage caused by the powerful tremors will cost Puerto Rico hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and an $3.1 billion in losses, CNN reports. Though the island has only received a third of the $43 billion in federal aid that was allocated to it by Congress for hurricane recovery after Hurricanes Maria and Irma. 

Over the course of the past few days, many New York politicians have expressed their sympathies over the islands devastation, while others have called upon President Donald Trump to dispense the federal aid promised to the island two years ago. 

“We still have billions of dollars that Congress assigned to Puerto Rico that are being held because of the whims of a president who is racist and who just refuses to release those funds,” said Mark-Viverito. “At this point that money's being held illegally. So now here we are facing another disaster.”

Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
Amanda Luz Henning Santiago
is City & State's web reporter and social media editor.
20201022