Leading Advocacy Groups Push Congress to Advance Disaster Aid For All During National Week of Action

Day of action and press conference featured prominent leaders from states devastated by natural disasters and who are still being denied critical aid

May 1, 2019 (Washington DC)
- Today, leading national organizations, individuals, and businesses representing communities impacted by natural disasters across the states and territories kicked off a national week of action, with a press conference and meetings with Members of Congress, to demand Congressional leaders pass a critical and long-overdue disaster relief bill. The day of action put the spotlight on the diverse communities across the United States that have been ravaged by an unprecedented number of catastrophic disasters and are struggling to respond to the devastation as they wait for Congress to pass a comprehensive bill that provides adequate aid to all communities in need.

“This administration and Congress are failing the millions of families and businesses across the country - from California to Kentucky to Puerto Rico - who are still dealing with the aftermath and impact of increasingly violent natural disasters,” said Laura Esquivel, National Director of Advocacy for Hispanic Federation. “Every day that goes by without action from Congress leaves families and communities struggling to meet basic needs such as housing, loss of businesses and jobs, adequate food and nutrition for children, and health and medical care for the elderly and disabled. It is incomprehensible that devastated communities all across the country have not received the aid they need because of this administration’s determined lack of empathy and concern for Puerto Rico.”

Destructive floods in Missouri, wildfires in California, and hurricanes in Florida, Puerto Rico, Texas, and the Carolinas have left communities struggling. These recent natural disasters resulted in economic losses of $91 billion in 2018 and $300 billion in 2017, leaving entire communities in economic shambles and claiming countless lives. Despite this damage, FEMA and the administration continue to neglect Americans in need of aid. The recent disaster relief bills proposed and passed by the U.S. House of Representatives are repeatedly stalled, putting in jeopardy the local economies, public health and well-being of communities across the country and depriving families of much needed and overdue aid.

The organizations calling for immediate action include: Hispanic Federation, American Farm Bureau Federation, Bread for the World, Corporación ENLACE del Caño Martín Peña, Coalition on Human Needs, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Coalition for Food Security - Puerto Rico, Feeding America, Jubilee USA Network, National Low Income Housing Association, Oxfam America, Sierra Club, American Federation of Teachers, and individuals directly impacted by natural disasters in Florida and Puerto Rico.

“Farms and ranches across the country have endured an incredibly difficult year in 2018 and the trend continues in 2019 with historic hurricanes, floods, tornadoes and wildfires. Losses total more than $8 billion, and the full impact of recent flooding in the Midwest is still being assessed. But we know that many farmers are facing near-complete losses of their crops, livestock and farm infrastructure,” said RJ Karney, Director, Congressional Relations for the American Farm Bureau Federation. “At the same time, Puerto Rico’s humanitarian crisis continues and reauthorizing the Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico program at $600 million is critical. We urge Congress to support the farmers, ranchers, agribusinesses and rural communities that were devastated by these natural disasters and make the compromises necessary to pass a critically-needed disaster relief bill.”

“Every single person I know in my community of Bay County, Florida was affected by Hurricane Michael. Homes, schools, businesses, and places of worship were damaged or destroyed. As a classroom teacher, I see my students and their families with ongoing housing, nutrition, and mental health needs as a result of this disaster. As we continue to struggle to repair our property and our lives, we desperately need financial help from the federal government to do so.” Alexis Underwood, president of the Association of Bay County Educators

"The poor are disproportionately affected by natural disasters. While Congress fails to pass disaster aid, vulnerable communities suffer." --Eric LeCompte, Executive Director, Jubilee USA Network

“Disaster aid is urgently needed, and the Senate must act now to join the House in approving funding,” said Deborah Weinstein, Executive Director, Coalition on Human Needs. “The failure to act is leaving disaster-stricken people in Puerto Rico and other territories without enough food, health care, and the capacity to rebuild, and hurting farmers and others in need across the Midwest and South. Communities nationwide need action now.”

“Puerto Rico was devastated nearly one and half years ago and has yet to receive the disaster funds needed to begin the long road to real recovery. For example, money needed to dredge Caño Martin Peña will not only safeguard Puerto Rico’s critical infrastructure such as its only International Airport, but will directly benefit its 25,0000 residents who have the highest labor participation rates of the Island but suffer from a higher prevalence of chronic diseases, atopic dermatitis, and bronchial asthma especially prevalent in children 5 years old and younger due to the lack adequate sanitary and stormwater infrastructure and persistent flooding that has worsened since Hurricanes Irma and Maria. If we want to guarantee a true recovery for Puerto Rico, projects like Caño Martin Peña must receive federal disaster funding.” --Ataveyra Medina Hernández, external affairs representative for Caño Martin Peña.

“We urge members of Congress to set aside differences and pass a disaster relief bill that provides the funding necessary for the many Americans suffering in the wake of natural disasters, including the $600 million needed for Puerto Rico’s Nutrition Assistance Program. Since funding for the program expired in March, nearly 1 million Americans have had their benefits cut and are struggling to put food on the table.” “Proverbs 3:27 says ‘Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due when it is in your power to do it.’ Congress must not withhold this much-needed assistance from our fellow Americans any longer.” --Rev. David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World

"Americans across this nation have been suffering as a result of catastrophic natural disasters and need immediate help from Congress. In the aftermath of Hurricane Irma and María, hundreds of thousands of families alone have struggled to recover in Puerto Rico. Families have already seen their benefits cut even though they still need food assistance. Congress must reach an agreement now to help all Americans and fund $600 million in Disaster Nutrition Assistance for Puerto Rico. America doesn't leave Americans behind and neither should Congress”, said the spokesperson for the Coalition of Food Security for Puerto Rico, Lilian Rodriguez-López.

“Recent fires, hurricanes, and flooding have resulted in devastation and economic loss that continue to threaten communities from California to Puerto Rico. It is past time for Congress and the Administration to agree upon the relief and assistance families need to feed their children, including resources for the Nutrition Assistance Program in Puerto Rico where funding is already running out, leaving people without assistance for their most basic need,” said Kate Leone, Chief Government Relations Officer, Feeding America

“Congress should immediately pass a robust disaster aid package that includes funding for all impacted areas. Disaster-impacted communities have already waited too long for Congress to provide the long-term recovery resources necessary to rebuild and ensure low-income families have decent, accessible, and affordable homes. Far too many families are still living in tents, cars, or doubling up with other low-income families, and the funding delays slow down an already lengthy process. It’s time for Congress to act and disperse a relief package desperately needed for thousands of families.” --National Low Income Housing Coalition President and CEO Diane Yentel

“Once again, politics and obstructionism have stymied the release of badly needed emergency dollars. While Congress and the President fail to come to agreement, the suffering of innocent people – in flood-ravaged areas in the Midwest, the southern US, and those still recovering from the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico – is needlessly prolonged. We ask that Members of Congress rise above these cynical ploys and immediately pass long-overdue disaster aid.” --Minor Sinclair, Director of US Domestic Program, Oxfam America.

“We won’t allow Trump to turn communities against each other, as everyone in our nation deserves support in this time of crisis. Farmers and ranchers across the nation are at risk of losing their lands and businesses without support from Congress. Floridians are still living in tents after losing their homes to Hurricane Michael. In South Carolina, folks are sleeping in houses full of mold. In San Juan, where much of the city is still covered in the blue tarps known locally as ‘FEMA roofs,’ it is obvious that the people of Puerto Rico have not received adequate disaster relief nearly two years after Hurricane Maria. Congress must act immediately to distribute badly needed disaster relief funds to every local area in need.” --Michael Brune, Executive Director, Sierra Club

"With a 58% poverty rate for children in Puerto Rico and a debt crisis that has tied the island's hands, Puerto Rico needs a disaster aid package that fully meets its needs and that of so many other disaster-stricken territories and states," said Erica Gonzalez, director of the Power4Puerto Rico coalition. "The president has a vendetta against Puerto Rico, but Congress has the opportunity to lead and protect lives, and should do nothing less than that."

Watch a live stream of the entire press conference here.