Hurricane Maria

Janet Cruz heads to Puerto Rico for relief effort

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Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, with Evelio Otero, on Oct. 4. Otero collected more than 2 million pounds of goods for Puerto Ricans.

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is headed to Puerto Rico today in conjunction with a relief effort organized by Major League Baseball, the Tampa Bay Rays and Moffitt Cancer Center.

Today’s flight will be the second to Ponce by Cruz, a Tampa Democrat whose ex-husband has family members on the island. She returned from her previous tour in tears, saying she was horrified by the dire conditions Puerto Ricans were living after Hurricane Maria devastated the U.S. territory.

Weeks after the storm ravaged the island, more than 80 percent of Puerto Rico remains without power and about a third don’t have water.

According to a press release issued by Cruz’s office this morning, the group will deliver 30,000 pounds of supplies, including food, water and medical necessities.

Cruz and the others also plan to bring back tissue samples “currently on the verge of spoiling that represent years of critical medical research” along with cancer patients and a group of nuns displaced by the storm.

“After disasters, it’s our duty as citizens to look out for each other,” Cruz said in the release. “We all must ensure we are doing everything we possibly can to help our Puerto Rican neighbors recover from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria. I’m proud to have found such incredible partners in Major League Baseball, the Rays, and Moffitt to help aide in this effort.”

Last week, Cruz visited a Tampa warehouse where volunteers, led by Evelio Otero, were collecting items for Puerto Ricans impacted by the storm.

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’).”

Dems ask Scott for relief centers to aid in expected Puerto Rican migration

As conditions continue to deteriorate in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria, Florida Democratic legislators are calling on Gov. Rick Scott to set up relief centers for Puerto Rican evacuees.

Friday’s ask comes as Scott, who traveled to the island yesterday, meets with President Donald Trump in Washington to give him an update of what’s going on in Puerto Rico and the Sunshine State, still recovering from Hurricane Irma.

The situation in Puerto Rico is growing dire, the Democrats wrote in a letter to Scott.

“Now more than a week removed from Maria’s landfall, nearly 3.4 million Puerto Ricans remain without power, the telecommunications grid for the island is in tatters, citizens are running low on cash due to the lack of functioning ATMs necessary to purchase supplies and are faced with an inability to process debit transactions, and large areas outside urban centers remain inaccessible as roads continue to be blocked by fallen debris or are washed away completely,” incoming Senate Minority Leader Jeff Clemens, House Minority Leader Janet Cruz, and a handful of House and Senate members wrote to Scott.

The disaster could result in “hundreds of thousands” of evacuees fleeing to Florida, home to more than 1 million Puerto Ricans already, the Democrats wrote.

“To prepare for this influx of hundreds of thousands new Floridians, we believe it is vital that the state respond proactively to ease their transition and reduce the mental and financial strain this process is sure to inflict on many families,” they wrote.

The “relief centers” could provide”one-stop access to local, state, and federal officials who could offer guidance on housing aid and availability and other services, the Democrats suggested.

The request for the relief centers comes a day after Florida U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio called for the “cavalry” — in the form of the U.S. military — to come to the rescue in Puerto Rico.

 

Miami Beach Mayor Levine headed to Puerto Rico — with 7,000 pounds of supplies

DKlR-5-UQAAWr0XMiami Beach Mayor Philip Levine is heading to Puerto Rico with 7,000 pounds of critical supplies for the beleaguered island to address what he called a “humanitarian crisis”  after Hurricane Maria left the U.S. territory in tatters.

Levine, who hatched the relief effort over the past two days, chartered a cargo plane to deliver the goods. He’ll be joined by state Rep. Robert Asencio, a Miami Democrat, on the trip.

The duo are slated to meet with San Juan Mayor Yulín Cruz and other local officials and tour the damage tomorrow. (Check out these tragic pics posted by BuzzFeed yesterday.)

Aside from the humanitarian motivation for the trip to Puerto Rico, Levine’s visible support for the island won’t hurt if he decides to run for governor next year in Florida. The Sunshine State is home to roughly 1 million residents with ties to the island.

Levine has said he will make a decision on a bid for governor before the end of this year.

By Lloyd Dunkelberger and Dara Kam.

Triple-shot of storms prompt Nelson, other Dems to seek DACA extension

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and more than three dozen other Senate Democrats are asking President Donald Trump‘s administration to extend an Oct. 5 deadline for “Dreamers” to renew their status, due to Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

“These major hurricanes significantly disrupted day to day living and operations in these states and territories,” the lawmakers, led by Nelson and two others, wrote in a letter to Department of Homeland Security Acting Secretary Elaine Duke today. “It would be appropriate for the government to extend the October 5, 2017 deadline nationwide to allow individuals adequate time to meet the government’s recent request.”

Trump and his administration announced earlier this month that the president intends to do away with the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program, a policy launched by President Barack Obama aimed at allowing undocumented immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children to remain in the country.

The Trump policy would allow some “Dreamers” currently enrolled in DACA to apply for renewal.

“Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico are still working to recover and will be for some time,” the lawmakers wrote. “An extension of the deadline would provide DACA recipients more time to collect the $495 application fee and gather the necessary documents to accurately complete the renewal application.”

Florida, where Hurricane Irma knocked out power for two-thirds of the state and resulted in historic flooding on both coasts, is home to an estimated 30,000 Dreamers.