STATEMENT: On Hurricane Maria Anniversary, CAP Calls on Congress to Investigate FEMA and the Federal Government’s Failed Response

Washington, D.C. — Neera Tanden, president and CEO of the Center for American Progress, issued the following statement today on the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria making landfall on the island of Puerto Rico:

September 20, 2018 marks one year since of one of the greatest natural disasters in modern U.S. history. As we reflect upon the nearly 3,000 lives lost in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricane Maria and the prolonged suffering of our fellow American citizens, it is also burned into our minds that much of this devastation is man-made at the hands of the Trump administration. A failed federal disaster response combined with an island in dire structural, financial, and political crisis led to an unimaginable tragedy Puerto Rican families are still reeling from today. What’s worse is that this administration still refuses to accept responsibility for their woefully inadequate emergency preparation and negligent response, even going so far as to dispute proven death toll estimates in favor of patting themselves on the back for the job they did. People in Puerto Rico are still living under blue tarps, dealing with power outages and ongoing medical issues, and facing red tape across the board when trying to get aid from the federal government to rebuild. This is an unacceptable state of affairs at the 365-day mark since Maria made landfall.

Enrique Fernández-Toledo, director of Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy at the Center for American Progress, added:

The Trump administration’s actions in the past year have contributed to a new chapter of disaster racism in America and complete disregard for the needs of communities of color. Congress is also complicit through its complacency in addressing the complicated colonial relationship between Puerto Rico and the United States and related hardships for the island’s economy.

The next Congress must also take steps to investigate the federal government’s response mission in Puerto Rico. This includes taking a close look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s enabling legislation, policies, procedures, and regulations in the context of its inability to prevent such a huge loss of life following a natural disaster. Congress must take bold corrective actions to assist Puerto Rico to overcome this dire situation and to rebuild in a sustainable, community-driven way.

In March 2018, the Center for American Progress created the Puerto Rico Relief and Economic Policy Initiative to focus on immediate-term hurricane response efforts for Puerto Rico, with an eye toward long-term planning, economic recovery, and solvency.

Related resources:

For more information on this topic or to speak with an expert, please contact Rafael J. Medina at rjmedina@americanprogress.org or 202.478.5313.