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Faith Groups Convene on Capitol Hill Urging Aid For Hurricane Victims

Urge Increased Aid for Families in Hurricane-Ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

WASHINGTON – The National Latino Evangelical Coalition (NaLEC) & PICO National Network today united with Congressman Darren Soto (D-FL), Congressman Luis Gutierrez (D-IL), Congressman José Serrano (D-NY), Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), and Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) for a briefing on hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The Capitol Hill briefing included testimony from impacted people who discussed the need for additional short-term relief to help families on the islands, many of whom still lack electricity.

“As Latino evangelicals living on the mainland and as a coalition that has been actively responding with compassion to the victims of natural disasters,” said the Rev.

clockwise, from right: Alicia Barnes, Former Commissioner, Department of Planning and Natural Resources, St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands; The Honorable Luis Gutierrez (D-IL); Rev. Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president, National Latino Evangelical Coalition; Denise Collazo, chief of staff, PICO National Network; The Honorable José A. Santiago Rivera, Mayor of Comerío, Puerto Rico; and Nelly Esquilín Perez, Resident, Carolina, Puerto Rico.

Dr. Gabriel Salguero, president of the National Evangelical Coalition. “The National Latino Evangelical Coalition is very concerned that our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands receive on-going, timely and equitable support and treatment commensurate with the devastation they have faced. Our faith compels us to speak up with the millions of our sisters and brothers.”

Today faith leaders urged Congress to:

Cancel the Debt. Puerto Rico’s debt stands in the way of recovery from hurricanes and austerity Even before the storm hit the island was already struggling to find a way to re-finance a crippling $74 billion in debt and over $50 billion in unfunded pensions. Now the territory is faced with a massive burden of hurricane damage repair. It’s hard to see how Puerto Rico can rebuild and repair billions of dollars’ worth of damage and also meet its obligations to creditors.

Enact a Marshall Plan: Support a bill that would fully fund the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands, rebuild the islands’ infrastructure – including funding for a new and resilient energy grid – provide full funding parity for federal health care programs on the Island, and enact economic tools so that Puerto Rico’s private sector can once again flourish. There is no sustainable solution to Puerto Rico’s financial and debt crises without economic growth in Puerto Rico.

Modernize the Energy and Electrical Grid: Refrain from spending federal taxpayer dollars on rebuilding an old energy grid that is fragile and subject to collapse with every new storm. They should build a new electricity system that is decentralized, one that maximizes the plentiful sun and wind available in the Island.

End the Jones Act: Urge President Trump to renew and expand the administration’s waiver of the Jones Act in Puerto Rico for at least 5 years. There are several bipartisan bills regarding the Jones Act and its harmful application to Puerto Rico. The costs of these onerous and protectionist shipping laws make consumer prices unnecessarily more expensive and could harm relief efforts from other countries. Economists estimate that the yearly costs to the Puerto Rican economy stemming from the Jones Act ranges from $500 million to $1 billion.

“In organizing this event, we want to raise awareness about the ongoing humanitarian crisis in both Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” Denise Collazo, chief of staff for PICO National Network. “While there is tremendous need, there is also tremendous opportunity. Congress must act now to finance rebuilding efforts, ease pressures on the Commonwealth’s budget, and provide resources for displaced residents in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands residents.”

“People of faith cannot look away as millions of U.S. citizens continue to suffer following hurricanes that ravaged Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands,” said Denise Collazo, chief of staff for PICO National Network. “The only thing separating the gulf of compassion that Texans experienced in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey and the concern that Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands experienced is skin color and distance; our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are people of color who reside miles from the mainland. But their devastation is our devastation and we will not allow skin color or distance to cause us, or our elected leaders, to forget that God’s people are in need of immediate help. In hosting this briefing, we are urging Congressional relief now.”

Watch the event in full on our Facebook page by clicking here or watch below.

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