Why Have Government Relief Efforts Abandoned Places Like Flint and Puerto Rico?

Although the problems plaguing Flint, Michigan, and Puerto Rico are distinctly different — and separated by 2,000 miles of land and sea — they are both tragic examples of Americans left behind in a time of crisis.

Residents in Flint were recently informed that their access to free purified bottled water would soon come to an end. It’s an extremely problematic decision considering that the city’s water crisis has yet to be resolved. In fact, thousands of people are expected to remain serviced by contaminated water pipes well into 2019. Regardless, Governor Rick Snyder doesn’t seem interested in ensuring that Flint residents have clean water.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Rico, 3.3 million American residents continue to experience semi-regular brown- and blackouts — a result of the destruction wrought by Hurricane Maria last September. Most recently, almost the entire island was left without electricity for the first time since the devastating hurricane. And though a large number of Puerto Ricans have had their power restored, tens of thousands of residents remain without electricity – even seven months later.

Although it became abundantly clear by 2014 that many residents in Flint were having toxic water piped into their homes, a solution won’t likely be achieved until 2019. And even then, it wouldn’t be surprising if that date was extended into 2020 or 2021. After all, officials and so-called experts have been continually revising the time frame for replacing Flint water systems for four years.

While the situation that produced and perpetuated the Flint water crisis is fraught with dubious ethical practices, the past actions cannot be undone. Right now, what’s most important is that the drinking water supply is made safe in a timely manner.

Cost estimates for resolving Flint’s water crisis have changed drastically over time. Some, such as the mayor of Lansing, have said that $55 million would cover pipe replacements; other, more pragmatic projections place the bill at over $200 million.

Puerto Rico’s predicament is not entirely different, with the island’s bumpy road to recovery sounding an awful lot like Flint’s.

When Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico last year, it took out roughly 75 percent of the energy grid. To restore power has been no small undertaking, and the federal government chose to outsource the task to private energy companies. The first to be granted a contract, Whitefish Energy Holdings from Montana, garnered heavy criticism; since then, Mammoth Energy Services has taken over in Puerto Rico — and the company hasn’t done much better.

Though these contractors certainly deserve scrutiny and criticism, the core issue is outsourcing to the private sector. While the usual justification for this practice is that services will be cheaper and more efficient, this isn’t proving true on the ground. Between the lack of results and the growing costs, the decision increasingly looks like an attempt to cut corners.

By virtually any measure, the response to both Flint and Puerto Rico’s crises has been a failure. Is it incompetence? Racism? Or is it a lack of political willpower?

Given Governor Snyder’s disinclination to continue dispensing state-subsidized water to Flint residents — and the fact that Snyder’s government is directly responsible for the installation of Flint’s poisonous water systems — it would seem the latter is certainly a key factor at play.

The federal government’s attitude toward Puerto Rico’s reconstruction is similarly telling. San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz has been particularly vocal about the underwhelming relief efforts, openly criticizing President Trump and dubbing him the “disaster-in-chief.”

It is difficult to claim that the current challenges facing Flint and Puerto Rico are merely the product of political apathy. If places like Silicon Valley or New England experienced similar crises, government response would likely be immediate — because, unlike Flint and Puerto Rico, these places are white and wealthy.

Take Action!

Thousands of Flint residents remain without clean, safe water running to their homes. It’s unacceptable that Michigan will no longer provide purified bottled water to these people. Tell Governor Snyder that he must authorize the continued supply of clean water until every Flint resident has access to non-toxic water by adding your name to this Care2 petition!

Millions of Americans in Puerto Rico continue to experience brown- and blackouts; thousands are still without any electricity. With the 2018 hurricane season on the horizon, the restoration of Puerto Rico’s power infrastructure has been nothing short of lacking. Enough is enough: If you agree that it is unacceptable that 3.3 million Americans are still experiencing power scarcity, then please add your name to our petition to demand that Congress take swift action to provide the island territory with electricity.

Concerned about an issue? Want to raise awareness about an injustice? Join your fellow Care2 users by learning how to make your own petition and make your voice heard today!

 

Photo Credit: USDA/Flickr

67 comments

Past Member
Past Member 5 months ago

noted

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cara d
cara d5 months ago

no one cares -only if it hurts them -no empathy

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Chad A
Chad A5 months ago

Thank you.

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DAVID f
Dave f5 months ago

Thanks

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Ann B
Ann B5 months ago

BECAUSE our so called elected officials care only about themselves and the headlines and lies--they no longer put the AMERICAN PEOPLE FIRST!!!

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

Thanks.

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven5 months ago

Thanks.

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

Thank you

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Jerome S
Jerome S5 months ago

Thank you

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Joanna M
Joanna M5 months ago

In the case of PR, they have been given tens of BILLIONS...more than any other disaster on record. Unfortunately, there are many other situations going on all the time, from hurricanes in other areas to tornados to wildfires. Are we supposed to ignore all these people and give 100% of the funding to PR? And even worse, so many people are urging the US to open its borders to whoever asks! How can we in good conscience do that, when people already US residents need help?

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