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Saturday, September 23

"Puerto Rico is America, and it needs its country to rush to the rescue"

The editorial board at the New York Daily News has sprung into executive action. Good for them.

Help Puerto Rico now: What the battered island needs and deserves from its country
September 23, 2017 - 8:18 PM EDT
New York Daily News

The 3.4 million American citizens on Puerto Rico, their lives in rubble after a throttling by Hurricane Maria, are owed a federal government-led recovery effort that’s every bit as energetic, professional and sustained as if they were Texans, Floridians or New Yorkers.

The fact that the island, as a U.S. territory, lacks voting representation in Congress changes nothing. Nor does Puerto Rico’s fiscal crisis, which has thrown the island’s government deep into a pit of debt and sent doctors, lawyers and others fleeing.

Puerto Rico is America, and it needs its country to rush to the rescue.

While the damage done by Wednesday’s apocalyptic wind, rain and landslides continues to come into focus, we know at least this much:

Thirteen people are dead. Countless homes and businesses are wrecked. Power is out entirely, and in many areas is expected to stay out for weeks or months; the electric authority says island energy infrastructure has been “destroyed.”

In hospitals and nursing homes, lives hang in the balance. Thousands upon thousands lack clean water. Friday, a key dam was giving way.

An insult-atop-injury metaphor is insufficient; given the island’s woes, all this is a head wound atop an amputation.

A staggering $74 billion in hock to bond holders, Puerto Rico essentially declared bankruptcy in May. It is already furloughing government workers. Slashing services. And grappling with a poverty rate that approaches 50% as the middle class flees for the mainland.

The federally imposed control board that now oversees the island’s finances has until now been rightfully consumed with making creditors whole without eviscerating basic services.

That court-approved fiscal recovery blueprint must now be redrafted to account for the deep wounds just sustained and the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding the island is due.

Wednesday, President Trump rightly wasted no time in approving a disaster declaration; he plans to follow up soon with a visit.

A staggering $74 billion in hock to bond holders, Puerto Rico essentially declared bankruptcy in May. It is already furloughing government workers. Slashing services. And grappling with a poverty rate that approaches 50% as the middle class flees for the mainland.

The federally imposed control board that now oversees the island’s finances has until now been rightfully consumed with making creditors whole without eviscerating basic services.

That court-approved fiscal recovery blueprint must now be redrafted to account for the deep wounds just sustained and the Federal Emergency Management Agency funding the island is due.

Wednesday, President Trump rightly wasted no time in approving a disaster declaration; he plans to follow up soon with a visit.

Stopgap short-term aid must be as robust and responsive as what Houston and the west coast of Florida have gotten these last two weeks.

And as soon as there are credible estimates of the damage done, the President must press Congress to speed long-term rebuilding help.

Build back the island’s infrastructure. Do it well. Give the American people and businesses who live in Puerto Rico the hand up they so desperately need in this hour of deepest crisis.

[END DAILY NEWS EDITORIAL]

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