U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand spoke on the Senate Floor this afternoon to urge her colleagues to provide desperately needed disaster relief to the people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Gillibrand spoke on the Senate floor in response to the growing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands caused by Hurricane Maria.
Below are Senator Gillibrand’s remarks as delivered:
I rise to speak about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
This is one of the worst disasters our country has ever seen.
The men and women and children who live on these islands are American citizens. Do not forget that.
They are suffering and they need our help.
They have no food to eat. No water to drink. No power. No refrigeration.
If we don’t give them help now, then many more people there will die – far more than those who were killed during the hurricane itself.
I urge my colleagues here to think about our fellow American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and what they are suffering through right now.
Listen to their cries for help.
Listen to what one of my constituents said to me:
“We need help getting my grandparents to come to New York.
“Their house is damaged and not safe.
“My grandfather is 93 with Alzheimer’s. He’s bed-bound; he has not been able to walk for over 18 months.
“My grandmother is 92 – diabetic with a heart problem.
“My aunt who takes care of her is 68, and we think had a brain aneurysm and needs medical care.
“Please help us to get them to New York.
“We can pay for the plane ticket. We need help getting them to the airport and putting them on the plane.”
And this is what another New Yorker told me:
She said her father is a veteran of Vietnam, and is a retired New York Police Department Lieutenant, who now lives Puerto Rico.
This veteran of the United States military told his daughter that he had suffered from head trauma, because he slipped and fell while clearing water that was entering his house.
He told his daughter that Puerto Rico is devastated, and looks like an atom bomb has struck the island.
He is without power, cellphone use, water.
He told her that Mother Nature had unleashed a monster on them.
He said “God have mercy on us,” and told his daughter he loved her.
This man is a veteran. He served in our military alongside so many other Americans from Puerto Rico, and he protected our country when we needed him.
So we need to protect him now.
Mr. President, how would you respond if this humanitarian crisis happened in your state, or in my state, or in any other state around the country? Can you imagine what this would be like if it was Ohio? Can you imagine what this would be like if it was New York?
We would act as quickly as we could. We would give people there every resource they need to recover. And we wouldn’t hesitate, even for a moment.
This is urgent and serious and we have to help our fellow citizens now.
Congress must provide the funding necessary to send down every resource available, help them clean up, help them recover, without further delay.
That includes providing Disaster Community Development Block Grant funding, just as we did for the people of Texas and Florida.
We cannot turn our backs on our fellow citizens.
I yield the floor.