Speaker of the House Paul Ryan visited Puerto Rico last week. He said that the United States is committed to Puerto Rico, which has been a U.S. territory for more than a century, “for the long haul, to make sure that this island survives.”
The House approved $36.5 billion in aid to provide disaster relief for states and territories affected by recent hurricanes and wildfires. This package, if the Senate also supports it, will include aid for Puerto Rico. Ryan said that this funding will not be the end of federal support for the Island.
Ryan went to Puerto Rico with a bipartisan group including Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Jenniffer González-Colon (R-PR).
“It makes no sense to put temporary patches on problems that have long-term effects,” the Speaker said. “We do believe there is a very important, proper role at all levels of government to respond to this now, in the meantime, for the immediate term and over the long haul.”
90% of Puerto Rico is without electricity and fewer than half of the residents have running water. The predictable results are beginning to be seen: people are becoming ill from drinking tainted water, and the death toll has risen from 16 to 45.
While the government of Puerto Rico should be proud, as President Trump suggested during his visits, that there was relatively little loss of life during the storm, the lack of modern power and water resources will lead to more death and destruction if the situation is not improved.
The level of destruction caused by the hurricanes has led, as Ryan pointed out, to a “humanitarian crisis.” He spoke of the “resilient spirit” of the people and commended all those who are helping. Acknowledging that Puerto Rico no longer has a revenue base, Ryan said, “We want to make sure that the resources are here.”
Ryan responded to questions, saying that the initial emergency response is going on now and funds for rebuilding will be provided in the future.