Durbin, Duckworth call on GOP leaders to provide greater hurricane disaster relief


Daily file photo by Paige Leskin

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) speaks at the Northwestern Pritzker School of Law in 2015. Durbin, along with Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) wrote a letter urging Republican leaders to provide greater disaster relief to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Jake Holland, Assistant City Editor

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) published a letter Tuesday calling on Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) to provide greater disaster relief to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of two devastating hurricanes.

The letter — also signed by nine other Democratic senators — requested the “immediate consideration” of a supplemental appropriations bill that would provide relief to the region, which is home to more than 3.5 million American citizens. Hurricanes Irma and Maria wiped out a large portion of the region’s infrastructure and left at least 16 dead as of Monday afternoon.

“We are asking that additional funds be provided to ensure an adequate balance in FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund, and Community Development Block Grants for disaster recovery along with other disaster relief accounts be authorized and funded to respond to this catastrophe,” the letter said.

The Trump administration approved a disaster declaration for 54 of Puerto Rico’s 78 municipalities, but only those included in the declaration would be eligible for Federal Emergency Management Agency aid, the letter said. Recovery efforts in the region require “strong, sustained and long-term commitment,” the letter also said.

Beyond FEMA assistance, the Democratic senators said the grants would help residents of the region rebuild their homes and infrastructure while also funding temporary housing for those affected by the hurricanes.

The letter said waiting to provide relief would leave schools, businesses and infrastructure vulnerable to “further deterioration” — providing another obstacle in the road to recovery.

“The American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands have served in our military and fought for our country since its inception,” the letter said. “They answered the call every time their country needed them — and now, it is our obligation to be there for them.”

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