Press Release

Gillibrand, Velázquez And Senate Colleagues Reintroduce Bill To Establish Puerto Rico Hurricanes Commission

Jan 7, 2019

Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand today announced she has reintroduced legislation to establish a “9-11-style” independent commission to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and Maria in Puerto Rico. The National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act would analyze several factors that impact the disaster response. Those factors include death toll accuracy and methodology, federal preparedness guidelines issued ahead of the hurricane season, the vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s economic situation, adequacy of the Island’s telecommunications, and the capacity of the Federal government to quickly mobilize and respond to disasters and emergencies in Puerto Rico.

“After Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, we had an extraordinary opportunity to help our fellow Americans rebuild and become far more resilient than ever before. Now, almost 15 months later, it’s clear that Congress and the President have failed to do their job to protect this part of our country and the millions of Americans who live there,” said Senator Gillibrand. “The storms were bad enough, but the government’s response to them was truly horrific, and we need to get to the bottom of exactly what went so terribly wrong. That’s why I’m introducing legislation to create a new, 9-11-style Congressional commission to investigate exactly how and why the federal government abandoned its responsibilities and turned its back on Puerto Rico. I am proud to fight for Puerto Rico in the Senate, and I urge my colleagues to support this legislation just as they would if a natural disaster hit their own states.”

“As we move into the 116th Congress, I will continue calling for accountability for how Donald Trump and his Administration failed 3.4 million American citizens after Maria struck,” said Congresswoman Velázquez. “It is clear now, from multiple analyses, that thousands lost needlessly lost their lives because of the federal government’s feeble response to these hurricanes and their aftermath.  Certainly, there will be hearings looking into many facets of what went wrong, but I also believe that the magnitude of this catastrophe warrants the creation of a nonpartisan panel to fully bring to light not only the errors that were made, but also how we can be certain this never happens again.”

“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico, New York, and across the nation deserve to know the truth about the Trump administration’s tragically deficient response to one of the deadliest natural disasters in U.S. history,” said Senate Minority Leader Schumer. “This legislation would compel an independent investigation of the clearly inadequate preparedness, response, and recovery efforts to Hurricanes Irma and Maria to uncover what went wrong in Puerto Rico so we can ensure it does not happen again. We must honor the lives of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico who perished in these disasters, as well as those who suffered needlessly, by passing this important legislation into law.”

“When disaster hits anywhere in America, our government has a basic responsibility to help rebuild our devastated communities,” said Senator Harris. “Our government failed at every level to respond to the disasters in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, and these communities are still struggling to recover. Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands need access to comprehensive debt relief so they can rebuild and achieve long-term economic success.”

“It’s been well over a year since Hurricanes Irma and Maria devastated Puerto Rico, and we still don’t know why the federal government’s preparedness and response were so flawed,” said Senator Warren. “The Commission established by our bill would give us a full accounting of what happened and help provide the U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico, in Massachusetts, and across the country with the answers they deserve.”

“The Trump Administration has failed our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico ever since hurricanes Irma and Maria made landfall on the island over two years ago. Our country has failed to provide Puerto Rico the prompt relief, repair, and rebuilding that has been provided to all other communities in America—a shameful disgrace. Over 4,000 Americans lost their lives and our government has yet to even acknowledge that awful tragedy— nor their complicity through abhorrent neglect,” said Senator Blumenthal. “This bill would establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to investigate the abysmal disaster response on the island – insuring that this will not happen again.”