January 14, 2020

Cortez Masto Joins Senators to Support Puerto Rico’s Request for a Major Disaster Declaration to Respond to Earthquakes

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) joined Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) and 32 Senate Democrats in a letter expressing support for Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration for the severe damage caused by a devastating 6.4-magnitude last week and the hundreds of preceding and subsequent aftershocks which struck the island starting late on December 28.

“We write in strong support of Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage caused by the powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7,” the senators wrote. “We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with your administration and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.”

In addition to Senators Cortez Masto and Schumer, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Coons (D-Del.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Tom Udall (D-N.M.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), Patty Murray (D-Wash.), Tom Carper (D-Del.), Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), Cory Booker (D-N.J.), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Bob Casey (D-Pa.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), Tina Smith (D-Minn.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) also signed on to this letter.

A full copy of the letter can be found HERE and below:

Dear President Trump:

We write in strong support of Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration for the widespread damage caused by the powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7, and the hundreds of preceding and subsequent aftershocks which struck the island starting late on December 28. Enclosed is a copy of the governor’s request.

More than two days after the 6.4-magnitude event, more than one million of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico were still without power. Eight landslides had been recorded, over 2,000 individuals were in shelters including 125 minors, and the island’s communication’s grid was only 75 percent operational. Many schools have been closed indefinitely and will only be reopened upon inspection. The earthquake tragically claimed the life of a 73-year-old man in the southern city of Ponce and many more were injured. The Costa Sur power generation plant – the largest on Puerto Rico’s grid – sustained damage so severe that the Island will need 500 megawatts of emergency generation for the rest of the year. Clearly, the situation in Puerto Rico is dire.

Reflecting the island-wide damage from these earthquakes, Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced has requested that you declare a major disaster in Puerto Rico on January 11, 2020, pursuant to the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288).  Specifically, the governor has requested Individual Assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, Utuado, and Yauco; Public Assistance, including direct Federal assistance for the municipalities of Guanica, Guayanilla, Penuelas, Ponce, San German, and Yauco; and Hazard Mitigation for the entire commonwealth.

These earthquakes make it even more unconscionable the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) inaction in disbursing the $8.3 billion in Community Development Block Grants for Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) funding appropriated by the United States Congress for mitigation projects in Puerto Rico. There is no substantive reason to withhold this congressionally-mandated disaster aid for our fellow Americans on the island, and indeed failure to disburse these funds has a damaging material impact on Puerto Rico and its residents. The bottom line is that this money must be made available to Puerto Rico now and failure to do so is in violation of Congress’ explicit intent.

We appreciate your swift attention and consideration of this request and stand ready to work with your administration and the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency to deliver support and resources to the impacted communities.

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