Stephanie Murphy to Lead Bipartisan Congressional Delegation to Puerto Rico

In this Friday, Jan. 10 photo, residents from the Indios neighborhood of Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, shade themselves under a tarp on a private hay farm where locals affected by earthquakes have set up shelter amid aftershocks in Guayanilla, Puerto Rico. A 6.4 magnitude quake that toppled or damaged hundreds of homes in southwestern Puerto Rico is raising concerns about where displaced families will live, while the island still struggles to rebuild from Hurricane Maria two years ago. (AP Photo/Carlos Giusti)

WASHINGTON – Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., will lead a bipartisan congressional delegation to Puerto Rico on Sunday, January 19, to examine the damage and disruption caused by the recent earthquakes.

The delegation, which also includes Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, R-Puerto Rico, and Reps. Donna Shalala, D-Fla., and Bill Posey, R-Fla., will speak with island residents affected by the earthquakes, and receive briefings from federal officials, Puerto Rico officials, and local mayors about the ongoing recovery efforts.

The purpose of the visit is to learn what Puerto Rico needs from the federal government in order to recover and rebuild.

“From Hurricane Maria to these recent earthquakes, our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico have been strong and resilient in the face of adversity. They need to know that the federal government has their back,” Murphy said.

“As someone who represents more individuals of Puerto Rican heritage than nearly any other Member of Congress, and who believes in true equality for Puerto Rico, I want to make sure that the island is swiftly receiving all of the resources it needs,” she added.

González-Colón said she believes it’s critically important that members of Congress visit the island and see, first-hand, the “impact and continuing needs of their fellow American citizens.”

“For the same reasons that over 100 Members from both sides of the aisle needed to visit us in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, it is imperative, now, for me to go beyond words and bring them here to see and hear what people are going through,” she said.

Shalala noted the earthquakes are just the latest of many challenges the island has faced in recent years.

“Throughout these difficult times, our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico have often been treated as second-class citizens. That is unacceptable. I’m traveling to the affected areas to find out how Congress can help to make sure these communities can begin rebuilding their lives as soon as possible,” Shalala said.

Picking up on Shalala’s sentiments, Posey said the earthquake damage on the island has complicated the road to recovery from last season’s hurricanes.

“I know that many friends and family on the mainland are already providing assistance and want to do more. That is encouraging and we hope that our visit will reassure those in Puerto Rico that we are full partners in their recovery,” he said.

Last week, Murphy, Shalala, Posey, and other members of the Florida congressional delegation were joined by González-Colón in sending a letter to President Trump urging him to issue a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico, which would make available a wide range of federal assistance for individuals and communities impacted by the disaster. President Trump issued that declaration on Wednesday.

But House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the president has so far only released a portion of the aid Congress appropriated for Puerto Rico years ago.

“This is unacceptable,” he said, vowing that House Democrats “will continue to work to ensure all appropriated funds reach the island and that the administration’s bureaucratic barriers do not further delay funds.”

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