TRENTON, NJ- While the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) denies that it ever intended to end food and water assistance to Puerto Rico on January 31, despite the fact that parts of island are still without running waters and electricity more than four months after Hurricane Maria hit, Paterson’s Senator Nellie Pou is continuing to speak out on the need for additional support.
On Wednesday Pou issued the following statement:
"It is concerning that the federal government is not taking seriously the current tragic situation in Puerto Rico. People on the island are still fighting to recover from the devastation that was left behind after Hurricane Maria. Reversing the decision to end food and water shipments to the island is only fair and humane. The federal government must continue to provide aid over the long term.
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“The reality is that the people of Puerto Rico are still facing extremely dire circumstances and while FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided, parts of the island still look as if a storm just struck. Last weekend I traveled to Puerto Rico with the American Red Cross, New Jersey Region, along with my colleague Assemblywoman Annette Chaparro to distribute water, food, batteries and other basic necessities to residents. What we saw was devastation and not the progress that FEMA claims they already made.
“We traveled to Ciales, Humacao and Anton Ruiz, and in those areas people still lack electricity and running water. Transportation is still a challenge for many residents and the infrastructure remains fragile, with power lines down and erosion that risks the lives or our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico.
“Food, water, and fuel supplies are still scarce and for many, particularly those with health conditions that require medical attention, this is becoming an issue of life or death. Some schools are still closed and others only open half a day to teach children because of the lack of electricity.
“We have seen an outpouring of support from New Jerseyans, including from law enforcement in Paterson and Passaic and Bergen counties and State Police who traveled to Puerto Rico bringing aid. While our Federal government seems to want to leave behind the people of Puerto Rico, New Jersey won't. I will see to that.”
The statement comes at the same time as local school and community leaders are preparing to hold a fundraising event in support of efforts to rebuild a school in Puerto Rico that was destroyed by Hurricane Maria. The “Paterson Partners with Puerto Rico” fundraiser will be held on Saturday, February 17, at St. Gerard’s Hall, beginning at 7:00 p.m. Tickets for the event are just $50.