Marco Rubio

Florida lawmakers seek aid for Puerto Rican refugees facing homelessness

puerto-rico-26990_1280U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, joined by a handful of Florida congressmen, are asking FEMA to extend temporary housing assistance to displaced Puerto Ricans seeking shelter in the Sunshine State.

The Florida lawmakers sent a letter today to FEMA Administrator Brock Long and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, after FEMA officials told federal lawmakers they plan to cut off Transitional Shelter Assistance, or TSA, to more than 1,600 refugees — including 600 in Florida — as soon as Friday.

The Puerto Rican residents, who are U.S. citizens, fled after Hurricane Maria left the island in tatters.

“At a minimum, the deadline for TSA should coincide with the end of the school year for mainland states,” the lawmakers wrote in Wednesday’s letter. “After Hurricane Maria devastated the island, more than 10,000 students from Puerto Rico enrolled in Florida schools. These children have already had their lives and educational experiences disrupted by a devastating storm and deserve the opportunity to complete their school year.”

The letter was sent on the same day power reportedly went down throughout the island, where before the latest outage more than 50,000 people remained without electricity following the storm six months ago.

From the press release:

FEMA’s TSA program pays hotel owners to provide hotel rooms to displaced victims of a storm. Once FEMA decides it will no longer provide a displaced family with TSA benefits, hotel owners will often evict them from their property.

With some parts of Florida already experiencing a shortage of affordable housing due, in part, to a sudden influx of displaced Puerto Ricans living there since the storm, these sudden evictions could leave some families – who are still unable to return home to Puerto Rico – with nowhere to live.

In addition to Nelson and Rubio, the letter sent today urging FEMA to continue providing assistance to these families was signed by Reps. Kathy Castor (D-FL), Carlos Curbelo (R-FL), Jennifer Gonzalez-Colon (R-PR), Stephanie Murphy (D-FL), Dennis Ross (R-FL) and Darren Soto (D-FL).

 

Rubio taps head of conservative group as chief of staff

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U.S. Senator Marco Rubio has hired Michael Needham, Chief Executive Officer for Heritage Action for America, to serve as his chief of staff, according to a press release.

Earlier this year, Rubio fired former chief of staff Clint Reed, following reports that the aide had engaged in “improper conduct” with a subordinate.

“Mike brings a wealth of policy, political and management experience that will greatly complement our office’s mission of serving the people of Florida and leading the effort to modernize the conservative movement in the 21st century. Mike understands and shares these goals, and I look forward to his contributions,”  Rubio said in a press release.

Here’s “additional background” on Needham from the release:

Mike Needham is the Chief Executive Officer for Heritage Action for America, where he was responsible for setting the strategy and vision of Heritage Action. He oversaw all policy decisions that hold Members of Congress accountable. Prior to his role at Heritage Action, Mike served in four different roles at The Heritage Foundation, including Chief of Staff, advisor to the President, and a director in The Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International Studies.

Rubio on MTV, working out and North Korea

House Speaker Richard Corcoran appeared on C-Span Wednesday morning, pontificating to a national audience about sexual harassment, hurricane recovery and term limits.

A few days earlier, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio got in some air time on a somewhat less-auspicious channel.

The celebrity gossip site TMZ caught Rubio, a Florida Republican, at Reagan airport in D.C. on Monday.

Ignoring the sex scandals rocking Florida’s statehouse and Congress, or any other high-minded topics, the folks at TMZ.com instead honed in on what their inquiring minds want to know: Does Rubio watch the MTV reality show “Floribama Shore?” (which we didn’t even know was a thing).

http://www.tmz.com/2017/12/05/marco-rubio-cameo-floribama/

Rubio said he’s heard of the show but hasn’t seen it.

“We’ve been busy cutting taxes,” he said.

Asked if this could negatively impact the image of Florida and paint Panama City Beach, where the reality show is filmed, as a party town, the Miami Republican said he would have to see it see it first.

The inquisitive TMZ reporter pointed out that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie created a kerfuffle a few years back when he dissed the MTV “Jersey Shore” show, saying it was “bad for New Jersey.”

Rubio said he’d have to wait and see the show before he could comment and indicated he had loftier problems at hand.

“It’s just a TV show. People have a right to put RV shows together. We’ve got a crazy man with nuclear weapons in North Korea,” he said.

The TMZ guy told Rubio he appeared to be in pretty good shape, but the senator didn’t seem to agree.

Saying he hasn’t been working out lately, Rubio said he doesn’t plan on hitting the beach (on national TV) anytime soon.

“After I get a tan and hit the gym, right?” he joked.

By Jim Turner and Dara Kam.

Rubio, Nelson to Trump admin: Fix roads & bridges in Puerto Rico

Keeping up their bipartisan stance on Puerto Rican aid, Florida’s U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio are calling on President Donald Trump’s administration to make repairs to the island’s roads and bridges.

Damage to the transportation infrastructure is making it harder to get “essential aid and supplies” to Puerto Ricans a month after Hurricane Maria ravaged the U.S. territory, the senators argued in a letter to U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao and FEMA Director Brock Long.

“Recovery efforts in rural areas, and in communities throughout Puerto Rico, will continue to be slow if these infrastructure needs are not addressed. It is critical that FEMA and DOT work together to quickly reconnect isolated communities to the rest of the island, and begin the larger task of helping Puerto Rico rebuild its transportation infrastructure,” Nelson, a Democrat, and Rubio, a Republican, wrote in a letter to the administration officials today.

Here’s the full text of the letter:

As you well know, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017 as a major storm that has left the island in disarray.  Now, more than a month later, many citizens continue to lack reliable access to essential aid and supplies due to infrastructure that has been critically damaged or destroyed. We are writing to urge the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Department of Transportation (DOT) to promptly assist and identify interim solutions for Puerto Rico in repairing its damaged roads and bridges.

During our recent visits to Puerto Rico, we witnessed the devastation this storm caused to the island’s infrastructure, including numerous bridges that were damaged or completely destroyed. The hurricane hit rural communities in Puerto Rico’s mountainous interior especially hard, effectively cutting them off from the rest of the island. It has been reported that small communities, such as Charco Abajo in rural Utuado, have resorted to replacing bridges with makeshift pulley systems to ferry supplies across the Vivi River. While the ingenuity on behalf of local residents has helped deliver supplies to areas that federal officials overlooked, it is not a sustainable or safe solution.

What are your agencies’ plans to ensure the delivery of aid to Puerto Rico’s isolated, rural communities in light of this infrastructure damage?

What interim solutions can be enacted to quickly restore access to these communities?

What are the agencies’ plans to help rebuild and repair roads and bridges on the island?

Recovery efforts in rural areas, and in communities throughout Puerto Rico, will continue to be slow if these infrastructure needs are not addressed. It is critical that FEMA and DOT work together to quickly reconnect isolated communities to the rest of the island, and begin the larger task of helping Puerto Rico rebuild its transportation infrastructure.

Thank you for your prompt consideration of this matter.

 

Video: Marco Rubio bemoans lack of aid for citrus growers

Florida’s U.S. senators have made a bipartisan pitch for the citrus industry to their colleagues, but it’s unclear whether federal lawmakers will fork over the money to bail out Sunshine State growers devastated by Hurricane Irma.

The state estimates the citrus industry took a $640 million wallop, but ag experts, including Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, say that damage is actually much higher.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio delivered a speech on the floor yesterday bemoaning the fact that the Florida delegation couldn’t get aid for the citrus growers in the recovery spending bill.

Here’s part of his speech:

“You have the entire Florida delegation in the House in favor of it, and they couldn’t get it in the House bill. You have both senators here for it, it can’t be part of this year because if we change it and go back we’re going to lose time. No one can tell you why it’s not in there, no one can tell you they are against it being in there, but it’s not in there. So you sometimes begin to wonder, I guess you start to understand, why people look at this process and just shake their head.

So unfortunately it looks like that’s been foreclosed and obviously this thing will move forward. Senator Nelson just made that motion, and it was objected to, so it won’t be part of this package. But I just hope we think about those men and women, these families that own these groves—how do you explain this to them? And what happens if they go away? What happens if we lose this critical industry? It won’t just hurt Florida. I think it hurts the country, and I think it sets a precedent for other crops that might be threatened likewise in the future.”

Radios headed to info-starved Puerto Rico, thanks to broadcasters

The National Association of Broadcasters is donating 10,000 battery-operated radios to Puerto Ricans impacted by Hurricane Maria.

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Tampa volunteers gathered 2 million pounds of supplies for Puerto Rico last week

The effort is being funded by NAB, the National Alliance of State Broadcasters Associations, and multiple U.S. broadcasters, according to press release issued by NAB.

The broadcasters are working with FEMA and local Puerto Rican authorities “to ensure that the radios are properly distributed to those most in need,” the release said.

Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio, and Congressman Darren Soto “were instrumental in coordinating this effort,” according to the release.

Here’s more from thepress release:

“Time and again, broadcast radio has served as a lifeline to communities desperate for information and support,” said NAB President and CEO Gordon Smith. “Our fellow Americans in the Caribbean now face a once-in-a-generation humanitarian crisis, and radio is one of the only communications resources available. We admire the resolve of our friends in Puerto Rico and are proud to undertake this effort with help from FEMA to keep citizens safe and informed.”

“We can’t thank NAB, NASBA and our radio brothers and sisters on the U.S. mainland enough for this initiative,” said Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association Executive Director Jose Ribas Dominicci. Raul Santiago Santos, Puerto Rico Broadcasters Association Board President, said, “This is going to be a very long recovery, and Puerto Ricans are information-starved for where to get help. Having local radio in the hands of our citizens will make a real and positive difference for our people.”

Florida Association of Broadcasters President and CEO Pat Roberts spearheaded this initiative on the ground and successfully secured transportation of the radios from Miami to Puerto Rico.

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, who is helping secure a staging ground in Miami for the radios prior to shipment to Puerto Rico, said the crisis “requires our ongoing support and commitment, which is why I’m thankful to the NAB for stepping up to provide critical communications infrastructure. I saw firsthand how the local leadership and residents are eager to restore normal order and the efforts by the NAB and a number of companies in the private sector is what’s making a big difference. I look forward to the continued efforts to aid the great people of Puerto Rico because right now, todos somos Puertorriqueños (‘We are all Puerto Ricans’).”

Rubio: Trump admin response to Cuba “weak, unacceptable, and outrageous”

First he criticized President Donald Trump’s administration for a lackluster response to the “humanitarian crisis” developing in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria.

Now, U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio lambasted Trump’s state department for its handling of attacks on American diplomats in Cuba.

The U.S. Department of State announced Friday it is yanking more than half its staff from the American embassy in Havana, following mysterious attacks affecting nearly two-dozen staffers.

In a statement released Friday, Rubio blasted the Trump administration as “weak, unacceptable and outrageous” for not tossing Cuban diplomats out of the U.S.

Here’s Rubio’s full statement:

“In light of these harmful attacks against American diplomatic personnel in Cuba, it is weak, unacceptable and outrageous for the U.S. State Department to allow Raul Castro to keep as many of his operatives in the U.S. as he wants. The Cuban government has failed its obligation under international treaties to keep foreign diplomats safe on its soil. The idea that Cuba knows nothing about how these attacks took place and who perpetrated them is absurd. The State Department must conduct its own investigation independent of the Castro regime and submit a comprehensive report to Congress. Until those responsible for these attacks are brought to justice, the U.S. should immediately expel an equal number of Cuban operatives, downgrade the U.S. embassy in Havana to an interests section, and consider relisting Cuba as a state sponsor of terrorism.”

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a Democrat, also released a statement, calling the attacks on the American embassy personnel “inexcusable.”

Here’s what Nelson had to say:

“The fact that the Cuban government isn’t protecting the health and wellbeing of our U.S. Embassy personnel is inexcusable. With the loss of hearing and stroke-like-symptoms, the Cuban government owes an explanation and reparations to the families of those injured and must work to ensure these attacks cease immediately. In the meantime, the Cuban Embassy’s staff in Washington, D.C. should be reduced by the same proportionate number of U.S. personnel recalled.”