Donald Trump Has Not Yet Declared Major Disaster To Puerto Rico

The request made by Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced to the President of the United States, Donald Trump, was limited to an emergency declaration to cover expenses for the immediate response to protect those affected by the earthquakes in Puerto Rico.

This means that the local government still needs to ask the Trump administration for a major disaster declaration that covers requests for assistance from both individuals and local government and municipalities in areas affected by the destruction of homes and buildings, as well as Landslides on public roads.

"I am requesting an emergency declaration for federal direct assistance limited to jobs under category B, emergency protection measures," reads the letter sent yesterday to Trump and the regional administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Thomas Von Essen.

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The commissioner of the Bureau of Emergency Management and Disaster Management (NMEAD), Carlos Acevedo, explained to El Nuevo Día that this request was limited to category B, on the recommendation of FEMA, to expedite the immediate response to the victims, with the purchase of food, water, cots and electric generators for dams and shelters.

Acevedo said that this was done "to work with priorities such as food, engineering, generators for critical infrastructure such as telecommunications towers and pumping systems for drinking water."

However, he confirmed that “in order for FEMA to help the individual with his lost real estate, we need the declarado Major Disaster’ declared; so that FEMA can help the government of Puerto Rico and the municipalities in the infrastructure, I need Public Assistance, which is within the ‘Major Disaster’ ”.

The NMEAD would send today, to a first group of employees to the Municipality of Guánica, to begin with the estimates of the damages. Tomorrow, the agency will send four teams to four municipalities to measure the damage also in those municipalities, a necessary management when requesting the declaration of major disaster, according to Acevedo.

Likewise, municipalities have 48 hours to send preliminary damage reports and 72 hours to send final reports.

The Legal Aid organization criticized that the federal government's statement lacks help for residences or temporary housing, when people are sleeping outdoors.

“This exacerbates the vulnerability of communities that more than two years after the hurricanes of 2017 are still waiting for assistance to repair their homes… This process requires immediate assistance, including temporary housing, vouchers or vouchers for hotels, among others, and is the responsibility of the municipality and central government, ”said Ariadna M. Godreau, executive director of the community legal work organization.

Acevedo said there are more than 300 residences with major and minor losses in the southern coast and mountainous region. He also admitted that there was damage to the infrastructure of municipalities, police headquarters, fire stations and government service centers, although he did not dare to offer a figure on these.

In a press release, the governor explained that with the statement issued by Trump, at her request, the island can receive assistance for emergency access, supplies and commodities, medical care and transportation, evictions and shelters, safety inspections, removal of dead animals, search and rescue, fire fighting, security, mass care, as well as the use or rental of temporary generators for facilities that provide essential community services.

"We thank President Trump and the interim administrator Gaynor for their immediate support in the face of this unexpected emergency across the island," said the executive director of the Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resilience, Ottmar Chavez, whom the governor appointed. As your authorized representative.

Vázquez Garced also appointed the Secretary of State, Elmer Román, as the state coordinator for this emergency declaration.

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