With last week marking the one year anniversary of Hurricane Maria slamming Puerto Rico, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., focused on recovery efforts last week.
Rubio wrote President Donald Trump, who defeated the Florida Republican in the 2016 presidential primaries, on the matter. In the letter sent out on Thursday, Rubio made it clear he disagreed with Trump’s contention that the number of reported death was inflated.
“3000 people did not die in the two hurricanes that hit Puerto Rico. When I left the Island, AFTER the storm had hit, they had anywhere from 6 to 18 deaths. As time went by it did not go up by much. Then, a long time later, they started to report really large numbers, like 3000,” Trump posted on Twitter earlier in the month. “This was done by the Democrats in order to make me look as bad as possible when I was successfully raising Billions of Dollars to help rebuild Puerto Rico. If a person died for any reason, like old age, just add them onto the list. Bad politics. I love Puerto Rico!”
“Today marks one year since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, before ravaging the island and contributing to the deaths of an estimated 2,975 people,” Rubio wrote Trump. “This moment provides an important opportunity to recognize the resiliency that our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico demonstrated in the wake of this unprecedented disaster, as well as the hardships they continue to face one year later. As such, I urge your administration to renew its commitment to ensuring the long-term stability of those impacted by Hurricane Maria.
“While some progress has been made, the island still faces significant challenges to recovery,” Rubio added. “Thus, I write to ensure the federal government has learned from our mistakes and to reiterate the continued need for federal support for Puerto Rico. The impact of Hurricane Maria on Puerto Rico was severe. The storm left Puerto Rico’s electric, water, telecommunication, and transportation systems completely decimated. This resulted in a disaster that the federal and local governments were not adequately prepared to respond to. While federal resources were stretched across four major disasters, and the distance to Puerto Rico created logistical challenges that impeded the deployment of federal resources, mistakes were made and we must ensure they are not repeated.
“Even after a year, it is clear that Puerto Rico is still in the very early stages of the recovery process,” Rubio wrote in conclusion. “Electricity on the island was completely restored to the entire island just last month. An estimated 166,000 homes remain in need of repair or reconstruction and thousands of families displaced by the storm remain on the mainland as their homes are not habitable. There is no doubt that Puerto Ricans continue to face adversity as they rebuild their lives after the devastation caused by Hurricane Maria, and it is critical that the federal government remains committed to supporting our fellow Americans as they continue the recovery process.”
Rubio followed up the letter with roundtable in Kissimmee on Friday focused on the recovery efforts where he heard from members of Central Florida’s growing Puerto Rican community.
“While significant challenges remain in the recovery and rebuilding of Puerto Rico, I remain committed to supporting the long-term stability of our fellow Americans on the island,” Rubio said after the meeting on Friday. “I’m encouraged by today’s roundtable with local officials and community members in Kissimmee, where I reiterated my commitment to ongoing recovery efforts and heard more about the challenges they still face.”