New Report Details Damage Caused by Earthquakes in Puerto Rico, Actions Needed to Help Island Recover

Washington D.C. – Natural Resources Committee Chair Raúl M. Grijalva released a new report today based on firsthand Committee staff reviews of recent earthquake damage in Puerto Rico. The report provides lessons learned during a Committee research trip in January and suggests a series of actions to speed recovery for the people of Puerto Rico. 

The full report is available online at http://bit.ly/2SmDpig.

Since Dec. 28, 2019, Puerto Rico has experienced a series of seismic events, including 12 earthquakes of greater than 5.0 magnitude. Those quakes, including a 6.4-magnitude earthquake on January 7, 2020, have destroyed homes and infrastructure, led to major rockslides, and caused at least one fatality. Earthquakes have affected power generation and triggered blackouts across the island. 

Committee staff visited the municipalities of Guánica and Guayanilla last month to assess earthquake damage. They met with government officials from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Puerto Rico Energy Bureau, Puerto Rico Department of Housing, and Central Office of Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency in San Juan to discuss the pace of emergency and reconstruction efforts.

“This report and my staff’s findings confirm what we already know – that Puerto Rico urgently needs federal funds and support to recover from the earthquakes,” said Chair Grijalva. “There is no substitute for adequate government assistance, and the residents of Puerto Rico have waited far too long for the federal aid they need to recover.”

“I commend House Leadership for advancing legislation to provide Puerto Rico with emergency funding to address this past month’s natural disasters. It’s time for President Trump to stop discriminating against Puerto Ricans, to release the recovery funds we’ve approved, and support additional emergency funding.”

The Committee report recommends implementing up-to-date emergency management protocols; investing in adequate housing, infrastructure and renewable energy; bringing more mental health specialists to affected areas; and protecting essential public services from threats of fiscal austerity.

Following the earthquakes, Chair Grijalva called on President Trump to immediately release aid to Puerto Rico that Congress had appropriated after Hurricanes María and Irma – aid the Trump administration had refused to release. Trump’s decision to withhold federal disaster recovery funds following the hurricanes made earthquake recovery even more difficult than it would otherwise have been. House Appropriations Chairwoman Nita Lowey introduced H.R. 5687 Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act of 2020 to provide Puerto Rico with emergency funding. In an unprecedented move, President Trump recently announced that he would not support the legislation proposed by the House. 

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