For many Americans, the perils of harsh weather are familiar parts of daily life. Oklahomans, for example, are all too familiar with natural disasters. For millions of Americans though, September was a brutal month of harsh hurricanes. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria displaced millions of Americans from their homes and destroyed immense swaths of infrastructure. The images of the destruction brought to light the reality of how strong these storms were. Although Harvey and Maria imparted lasting damage on Texas and Florida, the power of Maria has completely devastated the island and U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. We have an obligation and responsibility to assist our fellow citizens who are in dire need of help.
It is clear that Puerto Rico is in a precarious situation. The damage is of epic proportions and is far worse than what we witnessed in Texas and Florida. The tornado-strength winds and heavy flooding were a recipe for historic disaster. Roads flooded rapidly and debris flew everywhere – so much so that it completely annihilated the electricity for the entire island. Sadly, in addition to damaged infrastructure and housing, 34 lives have been lost. These are our fellow citizens. Their families are deserving of the full support of the federal government. Fortunately, support has been coming rapidly and abundantly.
Unfortunately, the extent of the damage has made it difficult to get supplies to people as fast as they are needed. Roads have become practically inaccessible, which makes getting to airports and shipping ports very challenging. Gas stations have struggled to supply enough fuel for trucks and cars to get necessary goods across the island. Because of the nature and extent of the damage, it may be many months before Puerto Rico is up and running again. Undoubtedly, there will be a large amount of economic damage and human suffering. However, due to their resilience and compassion, the people of Puerto Rico will overcome this crisis and will have the full support of their fellow Americans.
The work of the first responders, FEMA officials and the U.S. Coast Guard has been incredible. To help further assist the recovery efforts, the White House has requested an additional $12.8 billion for FEMA’s Disaster Relief Fund. Funds like these are critical to the immediate and long-term rebuilding effort. Just like Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, President Trump has been understanding and supportive of the relief effort that is needed for our fellow citizens. It is my hope that the House moves swiftly on the passage of this funding measure.
During this long and difficult recovery, Americans must remain united in our resolve to help our fellow citizens get back on their feet and reclaim their lives and livelihoods. To be sure, recovery will be expensive. But Oklahomans are all too familiar with natural disaster and the destruction it brings. Consequently, we are also intimately aware of the need for a helping hand from our fellow Americans when these tragedies strike. I am confident that in the coming months, perhaps even years, the people impacted by these recent storms will receive the same support and assistance that we in Oklahoma have benefited from when mother nature unleashed her fury on our state. They deserve nothing less.