Activists press on Congress to act for Puerto Rico

Category 4 Hurricane Maria ripped through the Island of Puerto Rico.

WASHINGTON (WUSA9) - Wednesday marks three weeks since the Category 4 Hurricane Maria ripped through the U.S. Virgin Islands and slammed into the Island of Puerto Rico.

Three weeks later, many activists say people still have no food – that he island is still in dire need. Those activists and politicians spoke outside of U.S. Capitol Grounds at a planned Unite for Puerto Rico rally. 

Their message was one for Congress and it was a personal one.

“I talked to my mom a week after the Hurricane for about three minutes and the call was cut off and I have not spoken to her since,” said Melina Olmo.

This is why she joined the crowd of volunteers and politicians calling on Congress to remove the Jones Act and approve federal funding for the island.

At the urging of some of the politicians there Wednesday, The White House has asked Congress for $5 billion to help ease the final crisis gripping the Island of Puerto Rico.

CBS News says the relief was requested in the form of a disaster assistance loan to help Puerto Rico’s government make payroll and pension payments. Officials say it’s not about servicing the island’s more than $73 billion dollar debt.

There’s an estimated population of more than 3.4 million people on the Island of Puerto Rico.

“Not a loan for Heaven’s sake,” said Olmo, “a loan – we should get complete relieve funds for Puerto Rico because we’re American Citizens.”

New York Congressman Jose Serrano vows to fight for even more money telling the crowd more funds will come int he coming months. He added, “… not because it is a gift but because Puerto Rico veterans and other Puerto Ricans have paid for it over and over again.” 

“This is really not yesterday’s news. Puerto Rico. It’s happening now,” said an activists who just returned from donating medicine to the Island.

More recently, “Thee Guardian” reports the U.S. Government is providing 200,000 meals per day to meet the needs of two million people.

“I can’t even imagine kids, children, elderly going hungry. Not having a roof over their heads. There are families that lost their entire houses” said Olmo.

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine recently tweeted only about 15 percent of Puerto Rico had power after two weeks. They’re hoping to hit 25% by next month. The tweet also read, “Where else in the USA would this be acceptable?”

Congressman Serrano says Congress is expected to vote on the $5 billion package on Thursday.

© 2017 WUSA-TV


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