Responding to Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria made landfall in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico on September 20 as a Category 4 storm, and the devastation it wrought has quickly snowballed into a humanitarian crisis. The official death toll is at 16, but 
could rise into the hundreds as officials find additional victims on more remote areas of the island. Nearly the entire island is without electricity, and it could take six months to restore power. Critical supplies, such as food, water, and fuel for medical facilities are dwindling, and aid is stuck in warehouses because of logistical breakdowns. We stand with the people of Puerto Rico, who are desperately in need of assistance if they are going to weather the weeks and months of hardship to come.

Indivisible groups across the United States came together to provide aid to Texas and Florida after Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Now, we are asking you to turn your compassion into action for the millions of American citizens in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Here are a few things you can do to help:


Organizations working to alleviate the shortages of food, water, fuel, and medicine in Puerto Rico need financial support to reach as many people as possible, as quickly as possible. Donating to one of these groups is the most effective and immediate way to help from afar. Here is a list of some of the charities engaged in this urgent work.


After Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, Congress and the Trump administration made passing a disaster aid package a top priority—and within days of Harvey, both chambers passed and the president signed a $15 billion aid package to assist with relief efforts. Now, in the face of near-complete devastation in Puerto Rico, lawmakers must act with the same urgency—but the administration has not requested additional aid from Congress, and isn’t expected to until mid-October. Members of Congress must act to promptly approve supplemental funding to ensure that Puerto Rico receives the same degree of aid so they can begin to rebuild and disperse supplies where they are most needed. Here are two ways that you can ensure that Puerto Rico gets the resources and attention it deserves:


  1. Immediately pass an aid package to provide disaster relief to communities affected by Maria. The people of Puerto Rico are hurting, and they need support. Before the Senate and House leave for their week-long recesses on October 9 and October 16, respectively, both chambers should act to provide disaster relief aid to Puerto Rico. This package should provide adequate funding to respond to immediate needs, like food and water, as well as longer term needs like the years of rebuilding that will be required. Ask your representative and two senators to quickly pass disaster relief for those affected by Hurricane Maria. 
  2. Amend the Jones Act so it does not apply to areas that are receiving federal disaster aid. The Jones Act is a 1920 law that requires that goods carried between American ports (such as those on the US mainland and those in Puerto RIco) be carried on ships that are American-built, owned, and crewed. It took President Trump several days to waive this requirement because, in his words, “a lot of people who are in the shipping industry” didn’t want him to waive it. Even after enough pressure built for him to acquiesce, he only waived the requirement for 10 days - not nearly enough time to bring all the resources Puerto Rico will need for its short-term recovery efforts, much less its long-term rebuilding efforts. Congress should amend the Jones Act so it does not apply any areas that are receiving federal disaster aid. Ask your Members of Congress to rescind the Jones Act for areas that receive federal disaster aid.