Pols say Puerto Rico still ailing, money still needed

January 13, 2018 GMT

BRIDGEPORT — With more than half the island of Puerto Rico still without power, two Connecticut senators said state residents should keep pushing to raise awareness.

“We have to speak out for the people of Puerto Rico,” said Sen. Richard Blumenthal at a community forum in the city Friday afternoon.

Blumenthal and Sen. Chris Murphy spoke to a room packed with city residents about their recent quick hit trip to Puerto Rico to check on the conditions more than three months after Hurricane Maria tore across the island. The senators arrived in Puerto Rico on Jan. 2 and returned from their trip Jan. 3.

The senators said devastation from Sept. 20, 2017, still plagues Puerto Rico — and it’s only getting worse.

The politicians’ tour included a visit to Martin Pena, Puerto Rico, where houses were leveled and which is still without power and water.

“Walking through that neighborhood was heartbreaking,” Murphy said.

The Army Corp of Engineers told Blumenthal near the end of last year that all power would be restored to Puerto Rico by Dec. 2017. When the senators visited earlier this month, Blumenthal said they saw firsthand that was not the case.

“How do kids do their homework? How do moms cook dinner? How do families come together?” Blumenthal questioned.

But as the island begins its repairs, Blumenthal emphasized the importance of rebuilding it stronger than it was before the hurricane, otherwise Puerto Rico will be “as vulnerable to future hurricanes as they were before.”

Since half the island remains without power and without drinkable water, the senators said health problems are becoming more rampant by the day.

Murphy said mold in the homes is leading to a rapid increase of asthma cases developing in young children. With the season of mosquito breeding on the horizon, the issues of Dengue Fever and Zika are becoming real risks.

“Health issues are just spiraling,” Murphy said. “The health care system is on the verge of falling apart.”

Murphy said doctor’s offices are without power, making it difficult for health care providers to see patients. Hospitals warn of lack of resources.

In a letter the senators sent Friday to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, they asked the agency to extend the emergency benefits they’re offering those who left Puerto Rico to seek refuge in the U.S.

Murphy and Blumenthal said the best way to help is to spread the word.

The senators said, for the time being, the focus should be on calling Republican senators to ask them to advocate for a bill with money allocated to help Puerto Rico.

“It’s about hope,” Murphy said.