Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY); Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (D-MS), the Ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee; Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY); and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) introduced legislation to establish a “9/11-style” independent commission to investigate the federal response to Hurricanes Irma and María in Puerto Rico.
Introduced in both chambers of Congress, the bill would create a commission charged with examining the federal government’s preparedness and response to a tragedy that it has been estimated may have killed 4,645 or more people in Puerto Rico.
“We now know from a number of studies and media reports that the death toll in Puerto Rico is likely staggeringly higher than the official count,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) who authored the legislation.
“Our legislation would look at how the Trump Administration’s feeble response to this disaster was shaped by the artificially low death toll, the inadequacy of the steps taken by the federal government in advance of the hurricanes and, equally important, what went wrong with the federal response in the weeks after the storms made landfall,” she said.
“Thousands of our fellow American citizens perished in this catastrophe. We need an independent, nonpartisan panel to fully investigate and bring all the facts to light,” said Velázquez.
Under the bill, “The National Commission of the Federal Response to Natural Disasters in Puerto Rico Act,” the Commission would consider a broad array of factors that impacted the disaster response.
These would include: death toll accuracy and methodology; federal preparedness guidelines issued ahead of the 2017 hurricane season; the vulnerability of Puerto Rico’s economic situation; adequacy of the Island’s telecommunications; and the capacity of the Federal government to quickly mobilize and respond to disasters and emergencies in Puerto Rico.
Additionally, the Commission would be tasked with examining any potential disparities in the federal response to Puerto Rico compared with 2017 mainland disasters.