I know that you’re not operating with the budget you deserve, and that many programs like pre-disaster mitigation grants and the National Flood Insurance Program are facing serious budget cuts. I even understand that the Disaster Relief Fund is barely being held afloat by relief bills passed by Congress.
And I can sympathize with all the career emergency managers that truly mean well and want to help citizens because their work is repeatedly negated by agency leadership that refuses to listen and learn from past failures.
But Puerto Rico was hit by Hurricane Maria nearly three weeks ago, and yet people still have not received any food or water from your agency. Why is that? Because you said it’s not your job to distribute food and water to hurricane victims.
According to your website, your mission is to “support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from and mitigate all hazards.” That includes:
Additionally, as part of the National Response Framework (NRF), you are one of several agencies responsible for meeting basic human needs, saving lives, restoring basic services and establishing a secure environment moving toward transition to recovery. The NRF specifies you are responsible for:
Currently, more than one-third of Puerto Ricans have no access to clean drinking water, while many are resorting to toxic drinking sources. And only 200,000 meals are being passed out each day when there are more than two million people in need of food. Aid workers have reported they cannot distribute supplies and equipment because the agency won’t release them. Without critical life-saving supplies, we’re looking at the potential of an epidemic outbreak.
If this sounds familiar it’s because the same failures happened during Hurricane Katrina. There was a breakdown in communications, ultimately paralyzing response from several agencies. Key officials were not proactive, leading to mass confusion over assignments and deployments. There were supply failures, where you not only took weeks to deliver much-needed supplies, you wasted resources. The 25,000 mobile homes you supplied went virtually unused because according to your own rules, they can’t be used on flood plains.
As of last week, your agency had yet to authorize all disaster response tools. It only took 10 days for the agency to authorize that level of aid in Texas after Harvey. After initial emergency help (i.e. food, water, shelter, medical care and critical infrastructure) you’re supposed to move on to reconstruction (e.g. sewage, stormwater, schools and local utilities). However, we’re still at the earliest stages of relief on many parts of the island.
Just because Puerto Rico doesn’t have voting representation in Congress, nor electoral votes for president, does not mean they should be ignored. Unlike political leaders that rely on thoughts and prayers, you actually have to do work.
People are dying from abject neglect. People are missing and go days without a proper meal. Thousands are without medicine and don’t know if they will live or die.
You are willfully killing Puerto Ricans. Shame on you for not doing your job.
For once, do better.
Environmental advocate. Communications professional. Sports fan. I love television and press conferences.