ITHACA, N.Y. — Tompkins County legislators have passed a resolution urging the federal government to provide immediate support for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as the territories struggle to recover after powerful hurricanes.
The resolution supported New York’s efforts so far aiding Puerto Rico and urged the federal government to provide immediate additional support for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The territories are struggling to rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria wiped out infrastructure and power. Now, millions of U.S. citizens are without electricity and lack basic necessities and access to drinking water.
The resolution also requests that federal regulations regarding shipped deliveries be suspended during the humanitarian crisis.
Legislator Carol Chock, who represents District 3, brought the resolution titled “Resolution in Support of New York State Aid to Puerto Rico and Urging Our Federal Government to Provide Immediate Additional Support for Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands” to the table Tuesday to Tompkins County Legislature and it was unanimously supported.
“There have been many bad storms in recent memory,” Chock said. “Many of them with terrible consequences without us weighing in, but this one is different. … Two weeks after the second of two devastating hurricanes, citizens of our great nation are lacking the basics necessary to ensure their continued survival. Some of you may have seen the footage today from on area of San Juan, but you don’t have to go very far from there to find a lack of potable water, empty food markets, even there, and impassable roads.”
When introducing the resolution, Chock took a couple minutes to describe the current conditions in Puerto Rico, where about 3.4 million people reside. More than half of the population is without clean drinking water. As of three days ago, only one of its 69 hospitals was fully functional and 80 percent of crops were destroyed, Chock said. Only 5 percent of the island’s electricity is in service and communication is also difficult with many cell towers down.
The U.S. Virgin Islands is also recovering after hurricanes toppled buildings, trees and made roads impassable.
“We count on the federal government in these natural disasters,” Chock said. “We pay significant taxes, as do the residents of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands, in part so the federal government will be able to provide emergency support.”
The resolution commends Gov. Andrew Cuomo for New York’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort, an initiative that has been sending medical supplies and basic necessities like food, water, blankets and generators to Puerto Rico. New York has also sent volunteers, police, National Guard and power grid engineers to help.
In the wake of these storms, Tompkins County residents have been doing what they can to help the situation in Puerto, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida and Texas. There are events, fundraisers, goods drives and many other ways to pitch in.
Legislator Anna Kelles said what they are asking is that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands be treated equally.
“I think that what we’re asking after everything that this territory, which is part of the United States, be treated like every other community that has experienced this,” Kelles said.
Read the full resolution below:
Resolution in Support of New York State Aid to Puerto Rico and Urging Our Federal Government to Provide Immediate Additional Support for Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands
WHEREAS, Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands are Territories of the United States and people born in the territories have been citizens of the United States since 1917, and
WHEREAS, damage from Hurricanes Maria and Irma caused extremely widespread damage and devastation in which many residents lack adequate drinking water, food, healthcare, or passable roads to deliver supplies even weeks after the storms*, and
WHEREAS, the magnitude of the disaster in Puerto Rico is such that the functional areas of the island are not large enough to support the large geographic area in which services have been destroyed and, in addition, provision of aid in the coming months will continue to be impacted by shipping laws that restrict deliveries, and
WHEREAS, humanitarian assistance to citizens of the United States should be made available regardless of economic circumstance, and
WHEREAS, as in other natural disasters, the Tompkins County Sheriff’s office has offered its assistance through the New York State Sheriff’s Association, and
WHEREAS Governor Cuomo has launched the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico, bringing together civic, business and industry partners to provide needed services, goods, and funds to help the people of Puerto Rico recover and rebuild, and
WHEREAS, federal relief efforts have not been adequate to ensure the continued health, welfare, or safety of this portion of the United States, now therefore be it
RESOLVED, That the Tompkins County Legislature applauds Governor Cuomo for instituting the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort, and be it further
RESOLVED, That the Tompkins County Legislature urges the provision of additional federal humanitarian and recovery support to Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands in proportion to the need,
RESOLVED, further, That the Legislature urges that federal regulations regarding shipped deliveries be suspended for the duration of the humanitarian crisis as they were recently for deliveries to Texas and Florida,
RESOLVED, further, That the Clerk of the Legislature send copies of this resolution to President Donald Trump; Senators Charles Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand; to Congressman Tom Reed; State Senators Tom O’Mara, James Seward, and Pamela Helming; State Assemblymember Barbara Lifton; and Governor Andrew Cuomo.
* NOTE: As of 10/2/2017, over half the population of Puerto Rico lack clean drinking water, only one of its 69 hospitals is fully functional, 80% of the crops were destroyed, 91% of cellular communications sites and 1,360 of the 1,600 cell phone towers were toppled, 85% of telephone and internet cables were destroyed and only 5% of the island’s electricity is in service. While the U.S. Virgin Islands have potable water, food and services, many homes remain without roofs or temporary roof coverings. Plastic has been delivered but deployment to homes remains inadequate.
Featured image: File photo of Tompkins County Legislature. Kelsey O’Connor/Ithaca Voice