‘We wasted three years’: Velázquez blames Trump regime for leaving Puerto Rico vulnerable as pols seek Hurricane Fiona relief

While Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called Monday for more assistance for Puerto Rico devastated by Hurricane Fiona, Congress Member Nydia Velázquez took aim at the former Trump administration for leaving the U.S. territory vulnerable to further storm damage.

Gillibrand and Velázquez were joined by Congress Member Gregory Meeks and President and CEO of the Hispanic Federation Frankie Miranda inside the senator’s Midtown office as they called for at least $1 billion in nutrition assistance as well as asking the Biden administration to provide robust humanitarian aid and disaster relief for the Dominican Republic and other Caribbean nations impacted by Hurricane Fiona. 

Distraught over the carnage devastating her home, Velázquez took shots at the Trump administration for not only failing to help the island following Hurricane Maria five years prior, but she also accused the ex-president — who lost to Biden in the 2020 election — of actively preventing the commonwealth from receiving aid, leaving it more susceptible to Fiona’s fury this time around.

“The Trump administration, they did everything within their power to prevent the government of Puerto Rico from accessing federal money that was allocated by the U.S. Congress,” Velázquez said. “Not only did they put every hurdle, but also issued regulations to make it more difficult for the projects that were submitted to be able to get approval from the federal government. So basically, three years passed after Maria that work was wasted where the government of Puerto Rico wasn’t able to get the resources that they needed. And now Hurricane Fiona has brought back trauma and the lived experience of Maria to so many all over again. We wasted three years.”

This comes as Gillibrand noted that 16 people have died so far due to the storm and 45% of the island’s residents remain without power, while 20% are without running water — leaving some residents forced to collect water trickling down the mountainside.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand called for $1 billion in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico. Photo by Dean Moses

One billion dollars in nutrition assistance, the senator said, would feed Puerto Ricans who were already suffering from high food costs and supply issues prior to the landfall of Hurricane Fiona while emergency supplemental funding for disaster recovery and relief would support the island with $2.9 billion for the Disaster Relief Fund.

Gillibrand also looked to remind Americans that other areas such as the Dominican Republic are also suffering damages from Fiona.

“Over the past few years, Puerto Rico has faced crisis after crisis,” Gillibrand said. “In 2017, Hurricane Maria killed thousands of people and flattened entire neighborhoods. Supply chain disruptions from COVID and rising prices have left too many Puerto Ricans without enough to eat. And now, even before the island had a chance to recover from the last hurricane, Puerto Rico is again facing devastating flooding and crippling damage to its critical infrastructure. I’m urging Congress and the Biden administration to provide both immediate humanitarian relief and funding for long-term investments in the resiliency of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid and other key infrastructure. This is an emergency, and we must act now to help Puerto Ricans begin the long road to recovery.”