Leaders with the American Federation of Government Employees, the largest federal employee union, are calling on President Trump and Congress to expedite the pace of recovery efforts to the 3.5 million American citizens in hurricane-battered Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
In an open letter to President Trump and members of Congress, AFGE National President J. David Cox Sr. and Fifth District National Vice President Everett Kelley said residents on the islands “desperately need our help.”
“Failing to treat this disaster with the same sense of urgency you displayed when Hurricanes Harvey and Irma battered the mainland just weeks earlier is indefensible,” the letter states.
Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria made landfall, most residents still lack essentials like running water, food, and electricity.
“Our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are being treated like second-class citizens,” President Cox said. “There’s no excuse for it taking this long to get aid and relief to people who desperately need our help. While President Trump’s visit to Puerto Rico is a welcome show of support, residents need immediate action, not just rhetoric. Congress and the White House need to step up the recovery efforts at once.”
AFGE represents more than 5,000 federal employees who work in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They have been working around the clock to continue serving the public, even as they face their own personal tragedies and losses.
“Thousands of federal workers who call these islands home are looking to their government for help, and the silence is deafening,” said NVP Kelley, whose district includes both islands. “They’re working under extraordinarily difficult circumstances to deliver care and assistance to our citizens in need. Help cannot come fast enough.”
Tomorrow, labor unions and United Airlines will be sending hundreds of skilled volunteers to assist in Puerto Rico.
In a joint letter, Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Maggie Hassan called on President Trump to step up disaster recovery efforts on the Puerto Rican islands of Vieques and Culebra after the islands were devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria.
Citing in their letter the remoteness of the islands and reports that residents have been “without running water, power, gasoline or communications for more than a week,” the senators wrote to President Trump to request that sufficient aid and relief personnel be sent to the islands as soon as possible.
“The residents of Vieques and Culebra are U.S. citizens, and no fellow citizen should be left clamoring for help,'” the senators wrote. “They need help now, and we urge that you provide them with sufficient aid and assistance without further delay.”
The Senators also expressed concern about the superfund site on Vieques and the potential health risks posed by the heavy metals and toxic chemicals left on the island after decades of military exercises by the U.S. Navy. “We share the concern of residents that the hazardous waste may further contaminate the island and water supplies, and ultimately threaten the health of local residents,” the senators wrote. “Additionally, the superfund site contains unexploded bombs and live ammunition that could be washed into the sea, posing long-term health and safety risks.”
The full text of the Senators’ letter can be found here.