Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Emergency Disaster Relief Supplemental Bill

February 7, 2020
Press Release

Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support H.R. 5687, the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Disaster Relief and Puerto Rico Disaster Tax Relief Act 2020, to provide additional funding to respond to recent natural disasters in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories.  Below are the Speaker’s remarks:

Speaker Pelosi.  Thank you, Madam Chair.  I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.  And, I thank her and Mr. Crenshaw for this very wise amendment to this important legislation.

Thank you for your leadership, to both of you, and the experience that you had in Texas is one that's shared in the rest of the country as well.  So, thank you.  And, I urge an aye vote on that important Crenshaw-Fletcher Amendment.

Madam Speaker, we all – many of us remember nearly two and a half years ago, Hurricanes Maria and Irma tore through Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and left a trail of heartbreak and devastation in their wake.  Thousands of Americans, all American citizens, tragically lost their lives.

Following the hurricanes, many Members traveled to the islands.  We saw first-hand the homes that were destroyed, the communities ravaged and the businesses and schools left in ruin.  And, we saw the incompetent indifference compounded – of many from here – compounded the terrible humanitarian crisis.

It is unacceptable that the Administration illegally withheld, for a full year, the assistance that Congress appropriated and Puerto Rico needs, both to recover from Maria and to prepare for future disasters – Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

In recent weeks, tragedy has once again hit Puerto Rico as more than 1,000 earthquakes, 1,000 earthquakes, have rocked the island since December 28.  Schools have crumbled, hospitals are in disarray and houses have been destroyed.  Thousands of people are staying in shelters or sleeping outside out of fear that their homes could collapse as they sleep.

And, tragically, two Americans have lost their lives, including a 13-year-old girl in Vieques, where too many are still waiting for the federal assistance needed to modernize hospitals and improve access to care.

Madam Chair, as Members of Congress our most important responsibility is keep the American people safe.  Two weeks after devastating earthquakes struck Puerto Rico, our fellow Americans on the island still face serious challenges to their safety, health and well-being.

Every family that is sleeping outside, every child who no longer has a school to go to because of seismic dangers, every person who dies because they can't access a hospital, each is a challenge to the conscience of our country.

Today with a strong supplemental assistance package, the Democratic House, and hopefully with strong bipartisan support, is showing the people of Puerto Rico we are there for them now and throughout the road to recovery.

I salute Chairwoman Nydia Velázquez, our fearless persistent champion of Puerto Rico in the Congress: born there, family there.

Thanks also to the Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus for raising a relentless drumbeat on behalf of the families of the island.

And today, I also salute the distinguished Chair of the Appropriations Committee for working right away, as soon as we came back into session in January, to provide assistance to Puerto Rico, the best route there.  That guidance was led by our distinguished Chair of subcommittee of jurisdiction, Mr. Price.  So, Chairwoman Lowey, Chairman Price, thank you.  Thank you for bringing us to the Floor today this important legislation.

The supplemental assistance package provides the relief that is urgently needed to help Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands rebuild and recover today.  And, it invests billions in efforts to prevent damage and loss of life in the future.

Although the earthquake was in Puerto Rico, the ramifications are in that region.  The package as we have – as has been noted,  provides more than $3 billion for disaster relief and long-term recovery, $1.25 billion for highway emergency, which will also go to disaster-struck states on the mainland.  

Hundreds of millions for critical education, nutrition assistance, electric grid recovery and strong tax relief for Puerto Rico and other territories, including permanent changes to the earned income tax credit and child tax credit.  And new investments to boost local economies and create good-paying jobs on the island.  And, I thank our distinguished Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Richie Neal, for his leadership in having this part of the package.

Sadly, there are some who are – who have some obstacles to sending this emergency money to Puerto Rico following the earthquake.  As Members of Congress, we have a responsibility to act because our fellow Americans deserve to know that their government will be there for them without question or hesitation in this dark hour.

Might I say – I remind – so many people in the country don't realize Puerto Ricans are American citizens.  Many of them – if you visit there, you visit veterans centers where so many of them come together.  They’re American patriots who have helped our country.  We are so proud of them and we salute them.  And, in this time of need, we want to help them.

I urge a strong vote to provide help, healing and hope for Puerto Rico, and yield back the balance of my time.