HURRICANES HARVEY, IRMA, AND MARIA EDUCATION RELIEF ACT OF 2017
Mr. SCOTT of Virginia. Mr. Speaker, I rise in support of S. 1866, but I also stand concerned about the humanitarian crisis going on in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria and also the other hurricanes that have been in the area.
More than 3.4 million people reside in Puerto Rico alone--U.S. citizens who are in need of full support of the Federal Government. This is more than the population of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, and Alaska combined--U.S. citizens, yet they have no voting Members of Congress.
U.S. citizens in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands serve in our military. In fact, Puerto Ricans serve in our military at a rate twice the general U.S. population, and they are hurting. They are fighting to survive, and they are in desperate need of food, clean water, medical supplies, and security.
Hurricane Maria essentially wiped out ports, roads, electricity, communications, water supply, crops, and many homes. Today, 97 percent of Puerto Rico's residents are still without power, and 40 percent do not have access to clean drinking water. So Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are now homeless, displaced, and without food, water, fuel, and medication.
Congress and this administration have an obligation to act swiftly and to act boldly to ease the suffering of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands. This bill, the Hurricane Relief Act, is well-intentioned and a good starting point.
But make no mistake, the limited flexibility offered to those affected by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria in this bill will be helpful, but the bill does not go far enough to provide the kind of relief that is needed in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
These Americans do not have voting representation in Congress that allows their representatives to most effectively advocate on their behalf. Therefore, it is incumbent on all of us to stand shoulder to shoulder with our fellow citizens and provide them with the support that they desperately need.
This is a life-and-death situation, and any further delay for aid will lead to unnecessary tragedy. So I urge this body to bring a full emergency supplemental bill to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands to a vote. The citizens affected by the hurricane are running out of time.
Mr. Speaker, I ask that we pass the bill, but, after we pass it, get right to work on a full relief bill for Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.