Hurricane Response in Puerto Rico Deserves Congressional Investigation

After Hurricane Maria struck Puerto Rico, the U.S. government was quick to advertise low death toll numbers, but those stats were released before the territory’s officials could even come together to accumulate an accurate count.

The Puerto Rican government along with George Washington University has finally put together the most accurate (and also upsetting) estimate yet: 2,975 people died either during the hurricane or in the following months when electricity, food and medical services were hard to come by.

Tell Congress We Need an Independent Commission to Investigate Hurricane Maria Disaster Relief

The main reason for the initial lowball number is that the people filling out death certificates in Puerto Rico were either pressured not to or just afraid to attribute lost lives to the hurricane if they didn’t succumb immediately while the storm was raging. However, the people who perished from not receiving medical treatment or inadequate housing and electricity in the ensuing months should also have been chalked up as casualties of Hurricane Maria.

Frustratingly, as this new study came out, President Donald Trump told the media, “We did a fantastic job in Puerto Rico.” Previously, he gave himself a 10 out of 10 on disaster relief efforts, and that was at a point when 85 percent of the island was without power.

When Trump toured Puerto Rico, he said that he didn’t consider it a “real catastrophe;” it should be noted that he specifically visited an area with far less damage than average. As for the electricity part, Trump recently falsely claimed that Puerto Rico didn’t have electricity before the storm presumably in an attempt to defer responsibility over the fact that it took 11 months to fully restore power to the island.

The money and resources Puerto Rico received paled in comparison to those allocated to people in Houston following Hurricane Harvey, leading many to wonder if the racism exhibited by the White House played a role in this neglect, or just an ongoing yet inaccurate sense that Puerto Ricans aren’t “real” Americans and therefore not entitled to as much aid.

That’s why an investigation into the response is warranted. Congressional Democrats – Sen. Elizabeth Warren, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Nydia Velázquez and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson – introduced legislation in their respective bodies to begin an independent commission to study the response given to these hurricanes.

Not everything has to be punitive. A large part of this inquiry can and should be with the intention of identifying the mistakes in order to better prepare and act in the next natural disaster. With climate change spurring on slower, more devastating hurricanes, we can be certain that this kind of thing will, unfortunately, happen again and again.

As of June, the federal government had only actually given 10 percent of the $32 billion that Congress allocated to Puerto Rico – even the full amount would be well below the estimated $94 billion in damages the island suffered.

Take Action

The independent commission seems like a great idea given what a clusterf*** the relief efforts have been. Let’s support the Democratic members of Congress already promoting this move, and pressure the others to follow suit by signing this petition.

Photo credit: Thinkstock

54 comments

Dave f
Past Member 4 months ago

Yes, this definitely needs to be sorted.

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Karen H
Karen H6 months ago

Yes, it deserves congressional investigation. But I don't expect my congressional misrepresentative to do much. Brian Mast has his little pet agendas that he's focusing on very heavily now that he's running for re-election. His biggest pet project is algae destroying our waters - something he didn't seem to care much about when Senator Patrick Murphy was hard at work on that.

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Ann B
Ann B6 months ago

signed

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Jack Y
Jack Y6 months ago

thanks

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Chad A
Chad A6 months ago

Thank you.

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Freya H
Freya H6 months ago

Signed the petition with a comment. Our current excuse for a government is a disgrace to this country, and to the world.

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Ben O
Ben O6 months ago

Think I've signed 25 petitions by now... : ~ (

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heather g
heather g6 months ago

Shameful behaviour by the Orange Wrecking-ball.

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Janis K
Janis K6 months ago

Thanks for sharing.

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