Hurricane Maria

Siempre Levine – en español y inglés – y Puerto Rico

Miami Beach Mayor Philip Levine, a Democrat who is running for governor, launched a bilingual TV ad, featuring Levine’s trip to storm-torn Puerto Rico.

The ad, “Siempre,” or “Always,” — in which Levine pledges to “always be with Puerto Rico” includes grainy black-and-white footage from his visit to the island after Hurricane Maria. The ad will run for five weeks in select markets, according to a press release from his campaign.

Cruz and Co. and 1 million pounds of goods

IMG_2281

Rep. Janet Cruz and Evelio Otero

House Minority Leader Janet Cruz is among the state lawmakers who’ve traveled to Puerto Rico to witness first-hand the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria.

Cruz, a Tampa Democrat, has also participated in an all-volunteer effort led by retired Air Force Captain Evelio Ortero, of the non-profit “Course of Action PR.” Ortero’s amassed millions of pounds of items ranging from wheelchairs to pet food at a Tampa warehouse, helped by hundreds of volunteers — many of them, like Cruz, with connections to folks on the island.

Cruz and Ortero will be joined by veteran lobbyist Chuck Hinson, who’s TECO’s VP of state and community relations, and Smita Patel, chairwoman of the 2017 India Festival Tampa Bay, at a press conference on Monday.

The press conference will focus on a “commemoration” of the shipment of more than one million pounds of relief supplies on a barge headed for Ponce, Puerto Rico.

“The barge will be delivering food, water, and other essential necessities for our American neighbors still struggling to recover from the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Maria. The supplies had been housed in Tampa and were transported to Jacksonville last week, where the barge will depart from today,” a press release announcing Monday’s press conference said.

The press conference will be at 2 p.m. at the warehouse, 4916 S. Lois Ave., in Tampa.

 

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.

 

Janet Cruz heads to Puerto Rico for relief effort

IMG_2281

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.

IMG_2270

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.