Hurricane María

16 posts

FEMA, Housing and the Loss of Wealth

A FEMA worker approaches a heavily damaged home after Hurricanes Irma and María. The loss of valuable assets and, hence, wealth will have a long-term impact on the Puerto Rican community. / FEMA Facebook

Puerto Rico hurricane evacuees in the Orlando area will begin fleeing FEMA-sponsored short-term housing as soon as next week, with others to follow in March 20.

Calls began months ago to pressure the Federal Emergency Management Agency to extend the deadline for the dozens of people who are still grappling with the sudden homelessness brought on by two back-to-back hurricanes.

FEMA states the program was temporary, which is true, and this week published a press release with the condescending title, “How to Create Permanent Housing Plans,” as if the agency were addressing ignorant people. Item No. 3: “Achieve long-term housing goals in a reasonable time frame.”

If only it were that easy.

Continue reading

Hurricane Supplies May Go to Waste

Supplies collected by Iniciativa Puertorriqueña for Puerto Rico relief efforts are held at a Goldenrod  Road warehouse owned by the Orange County government. The merchandise must be removed by 5 p.m. Monday. /Maria Padilla. Photo dated December 2017

Puerto Rico hurricane victims may never see thousands of pounds of food and other supplies collected in Central Florida as part of relief efforts.

Earlier this week, news reports indicated that hundreds of boxes of supplies at the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Office (PRFAA) in Kissimmee were potentially contaminated by rodents – supplies that should have made it to the island a while ago. The office said it sent 10,000 pounds of supplies to Puerto Rico, with remaining supplies to be distributed locally.

But the office, with a budget of about $200,000 a year and a few employees, closed its doors over a week ago. It probably should have been shuttered eons ago due to Puerto Rico’s ongoing steep money problems. It seems likely the rat-infested supplies must be thrown out.

But, wait, there’s more.

Continue reading

Organizations Keen to Register Puerto Rican Voters

Never have so many organizations been so keen to register Puerto Rican voters.

For partisan voices eager to tilt registration rolls in the critical swing state of Florida, there is gold in them there newly arrived Puerto Ricans. For the partisans who fear they may lose out, there is a race to convince Puerto Rican voters of the kinship between the two.

Florida “estimates that nearly 300,000 U.S. citizens from Puerto Rico fed to Florida after Hurricane María. Some will stay, register and vote. … If Florida turns as reliably blue as California and New York, Republicans, starting with Donald Trump, may never win another presidential election,” wrote Daniel Henninger in the Wall Street Journal  last week.

All this is happening before many Puerto Ricans have settled into permanent residences. Before many have solicited permanent, not temporary, Florida identifications needed to register to vote, by the way. But most important, before the trauma of fleeing a hurricane-wracked Puerto Rico empty-handed is digested or properly dealt with.

Activists and organizations who really want to help Puerto Ricans should start with basic necessities. It may surprise people to learn that voting is not a basic need. In fact, there is no election until the August primaries, seven months away. Voting participation is a lot like concern for the environment: Once fundamental needs are addressed you can turn your gaze elsewhere. The Puerto Rican evacuees are far from reaching this goal. Plus, they are very much concerned about family back home.

Continue reading

Pied Piper of the Puerto Rican Diaspora?

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló threatened to lead the diaspora vote in the 2018 midterm elections. Here he leads a Christmas parranda down an Old San Juan street. / Rosselló-Facebook

The governor of Puerto Rico wants to be the Pied Piper of the Puerto Rican vote, leading the diaspora to the polls in 2018 if Congress doesn’t treat the island better under tax reform. Well, tax reform came and went and Governor Ricardo Rosselló may have to make good on his promise because the reform designates Puerto Rico as a foreign entity at considerable cost to the island economy.

“We are a significant voting bloc in the United States that perhaps hasn’t been organized well in the past,” said Rosselló in an article in Politico. “The diaspora, the Puerto Rican exodus, has always wanted to help Puerto Rico, it just hasn’t been crystal clear how they can do it. If we can establish that organization we can have plenty of influence.”

Rosselló is a little late to the political party, for everyone and her grandmother has been trying to corral the Puerto Rican vote, especially in Central Florida, with the largest concentration of Puerto Ricans in the state. And this has been the case for quite a while.

Something Laughable

That aside, there is something laughable about Puerto Rico’s failed ruling class, of which Rosselló is a legacy child for his father Pedro Rosselló was a two-term governor, promising to sew up the stateside Puerto Rican vote. The island’s ruling class has demonstrated beyond a doubt it has no clothes of any political stripes, having abandoned the largely poor people of Puerto Rico to fend for themselves in the worse natural disaster in modern Puerto Rico and U.S. history. In addition, it has shown no political accountability for the man-made disasters that erupted after the hurricanes struck.

Continue reading