Recovery Assistance Surges to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) is conducting aggressive 24-hour search and rescue and recovery operations, with an array of U.S. government partners, in an ongoing effort to provide immediate assistance to the residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as they recover from successive Hurricanes Irma and Maria, reported U.S. Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen (NJ-11), the Chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations. 

“The personal accounts and pictures coming out of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands are heartbreaking as the residents of these two territories struggle in the aftermath of two colossal storms,” said Frelinghuysen.  “Congress will continue to work with the Administration to make sure that our fellow Americans get every resource they need as soon as possible.”

According to FEMA, the top priority of the federal government is continuing to provide life sustaining resources to the islands, bringing additional essential commodities in and restoring power at hospitals, ports, airports, and other critical facilities.

FEMA, working in coordination with its federal partners and an array of non-profit organizations, has already provided more than four million meals, six million liters of water, nearly 300 infant and toddler kits, and nearly 70,000 emergency roofing kits to the two areas since Hurricane Maria’s landfall.

Thousands of federal staff, including more than 600 FEMA personnel, are on the ground in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands supporting response and recovery operations.

The federal government is working with its interagency, non-profit partners and faith-based charities to support the transportation and delivery of fuel, based on priorities identified by emergency personnel on the ground in the islands.  The federal support for fuel transportation includes air and sea logistical support by the Defense Logistics Agency, U.S. Northern Command, the U.S. Navy, and U.S. Coast Guard, in coordination with the private sector. 

Examples of additional federal support: 

• The U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) has deployed 11 ships and over 100 aircraft to assist operations. Personnel continue to deliver critical FEMA relief supplies.  A mobile communications team arrived in Puerto Rico to help improve communications across the storm-impacted area. 

• The Department of Defense has over 2,600 personnel in the Caribbean. The USS Oak Hill and the USS Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group have conducted medical evacuations and 123 airlifts and delivered 22,200 pounds of relief supplies and cargo to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.  The Army’s 602nd Area Support Medical Company and a Civil Authority Information Support Element have been deployed to the Virgin Islands.

• The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued an order on September 24 authorizing FEMA and DoD to install and operate temporary water treatment units to provide clean water in the U.S. Virgin Islands to address concerns about a lack of clean water supplies.

• Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and the DOD conducted medical evacuations for more than 150 patients from the islands to the continental United States. Medical evacuations from the islands will continue.

• The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) deployed debris experts to assist FEMA with debris management strategies in Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands.  Additionally, USACE has 86 generators on hand in Puerto Rico and St. Thomas with more than 186 additional generators en route. USACE and other supporting agencies have completed nine temporary power installs on Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. 

• Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations personnel are onsite in St. Thomas to evaluate, fix, and install FAA equipment, in support of air traffic control operations.

• The National Guard Bureau (NGB) has thousands of Guard members on the ground in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands taking part in security and support operations. The Air Guard is focused on transporting food, water, and communications equipment.

• Customs and Border Protection airplanes and helicopters are assisting with conducting damage assessment and search and rescue missions.

• More than 180 Federal Law Enforcement Officers are in San Juan and the Virgin Islands supporting search and rescue and medical teams. 

"The people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remain in our thoughts.   There is no doubt that the challenges they face are truly tremendous. While significant progress has been made, full recovery will be very long and very trying. But the people should be reassured that they are entitled to equal treatment under the law and the Appropriations Committee and House Leadership will assure that every step of the way."

“The Appropriations Committee plays a central role in ensuring that the federal government provides the help the victims need.  It is important to reassure residents and local officials that that we will help them rebuild.”