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Duckworth and Durbin Join Colleagues to Support Puerto Rico’s Request for A Major Disaster Declaration in Response to Earthquakes | U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth of Illinois

January 15, 2020

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – This week, U.S. Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) joined 34 of their colleagues, led by Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), in sending a letter to President Trump to express strong support of Puerto Rico’s request for a major disaster declaration following the widespread damage caused by the powerful 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7 and its aftershocks, as well as the foreshock that began on December 28.

“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 Senators wrote. “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.”

Along with Senators Duckworth, Durbin and Schumer, this letter was signed by Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Bob Casey (D-PA), Chris Coons (D-DE), Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ed Markey (D-MA), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Chris Murphy (D-CT), Patty Murray (D-WA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (D-VT), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), Tina Smith (D-MN), Tom Udall (D-NM), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

A full copy of the letter is available below and online here.

January 14, 2020

The Honorable Donald J. Trump
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

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.

Sincerely,

– 30 –

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All Information was gathered from publicly available US Government releases. "§105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise. ( Pub. L. 94–553, title I, §101, Oct. 19, 1976, 90 Stat. 2546 .)" http://uscode.house.gov/view.xhtml?req=(title:17%20section:105%20edition:prelim)