Kirsten Gillibrand is a U.S. Senator representing the state of New York. The views expressed are her own.
Last weekend, I traveled with a bipartisan group of my Senate colleagues to Puerto Rico. We wanted to see for ourselves the extent of the damage and human suffering after Hurricane Maria, and what Congress needs to do to fulfill its moral responsibility to our fellow citizens.
I was appalled to see this week that President Trump has threatened to turn his back on Puerto Rico. That is absolutely shameful and not who we are as Americans. When there’s a crisis, we pull together, and we never leave a fellow American behind. Especially when they lack the basics like food, clean water, electricity, and health care.
This is a time for all-hands-on-deck leadership. We should be doing much, much more to help. We need a Marshall-style plan for Puerto Rico as soon as possible to rebuild infrastructure, eliminate the crushing hedge fund-owned debt, and lay the foundation of a new and stronger economy. That’s how massive this recovery effort needs to be, because our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico are desperate for help. They need Congress and the President to do their part and send them the resources, support, and manpower they need to rebuild.
Hurricane Maria destroyed Puerto Rico’s power and water infrastructure, including dams and reservoirs. Three of their biggest industries, which drive Puerto Rico’s already struggling economy – agriculture, pharmaceuticals, and tourism – were severely damaged, because the hurricane wiped out so many farms, hotels, and factories. In other words, this wasn’t just a natural disaster; it’s also an economic disaster that the local government cannot dig out of on its own.
This effort is going to take years, but that doesn’t mean we won’t succeed. New York is home to more than one million Puerto Ricans, and I will fight with them side by side. I am committed to doing everything I possibly can in the Senate to help Puerto Rico fully recover from this catastrophic natural disaster. The aid package that’s being voted on in the House of Representatives is a first step that must not be allowed to be the last step because it is far from enough. We have to do more, and we must never stop fighting until Puerto Rico gets the help it needs.
Are you with me?
I urge you to raise your voices and speak out about this humanitarian crisis. Post on social media about it, tell your story if you have one, and most importantly, contact your elected representatives and tell them why it’s so important that they never turn their backs on Puerto Rico.
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