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Massachusetts Congressman Says Trump Administration Needs To Step Up Efforts To Help Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico

APT ATTENTION: Rep. Richard Neal (right) and Rep. Jim McGovern hear what needs to happen in Puerto Rico.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. — A Massachusetts congressman has asked Trump administration officials to provide an update on the federal government’s efforts to restore electricity and other basic services in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico — hit hard by Hurricanes Maria and Irma.

U.S. Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass., who recently joined other Massachusetts lawmakers in traveling to Puerto Rico, penned a Thursday letter to Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney raising concerns about the White House’s response to recovery efforts on the islands.

Contending that Mulvaney’s office and congressional Republicans have fallen short in appropriating the $94 billion Puerto Rico’s governor requested for recovery efforts, Neal accused the Trump administration of failing to secure “even the most basic level of support during this difficult time.”

He called on the White House “to step up and support our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico the U.S. Virgin Islands,” as well as urged Mulvaney to provide an updated look at the administration’s efforts to assist in hurricane recovery in the two territories.

“After seeing the devastation and recovery efforts first hand, I can attest to the level of support needed for these efforts. The administration’s funding request is woefully inadequate and the political gamesmanship of Republicans in Congress has prevented us from fulfilling our obligation to date,” he wrote in the letter. “I look to you as director of the Office of Management and Budget to come to the table in good faith for our fellow citizens.”

Specifically, Neal asked Mulvaney to detail: how many hospitals in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have physical damage, or lack permanent power sources or water; how many pharmaceutical manufacturing facilities are not yet fully operational in Puerto Rico; and how the administration plans to address the growing mental health challenges related to the hurricanes, among many other things.

The congressman took part in official visit to Puerto Rico, which U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s office organized, earlier this month.

Neal, following the trip, praised the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s response to damage caused by the hurricanes, but offered that initial efforts could have been more efficient.

As of the delegation’s visit — more than 100 days after the hurricanes hit Puerto Rico — only 60 percent of power has been restored on the island and just 10 percent of the power grid is operational, Neal said.


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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy has been reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands since 1989. He is originally from Detroit, Michigan.

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