Hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans are still without power and running water, and Marco Rubio says Congress needs to do more.
The U.S. Senate is expected to formulate its own disaster relief bill on Thursday or Friday after the House passed a $36.5 billion proposal last week.
But Rubio said simply passing the House proposal doesn’t do enough for Florida, Texas and especially Puerto Rico in their time of need. The House proposal gives large sums of money to federal agencies for hurricane relief but does not include specific provisions that immediately fund rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico.
“It’s not so much the dollar amount, it’s really how those funds would be accessed,” Rubio said. “For example, it requires...a damage assessment, they’re not going to be able to do this in a timely fashion while they’re trying to restore power and get water and food to people. They [Puerto Rico] are today, four weeks after the storm, where Florida was 48 hours after the storm. They’re still dealing with the acute, immediate challenges.”
Rubio said he’s been working with Texas Republican Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, who have both criticized the pending disaster aid package because it lacks specific provisions, along with Democratic leader Chuck Schumer of New York, to make changes to the relief bill before the Senate votes on it.
“It’s easy to get impressed by some of the dollar figures that are in there which is substantial,” Rubio said. “The problem for Puerto Rico and Florida and Texas is the package is not structured in a way that actually helps us entirely. In the case of Florida it leaves out key industries that need to be addressed. In the case of Puerto Rico it fails to adequately address the liquidity issue, and that is the ability to access the funds quickly to continue basic governmental operations.”
Rubio warned that the Puerto Rican government could shut down in the next 30 to 45 days if Congress doesn’t allocate funds specifically to the U.S. territory. A shutdown would be “incredibly cataclysmic” to Puerto Rico’s relief effort, Rubio said.
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met with Rubio on Thursday morning to update the senator on relief efforts before a meeting with President Donald Trump later in the day. Rosselló, who has been quick to publicly praise the federal government’s response in the weeks after Hurricane Maria, did not criticize Congress or the federal government’s response during remarks on Capitol Hill.
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