- By Rachel Crawford, News Editor -
On Wednesday, September 20th, the 3.4 million people of Puerto Rico were hit by Hurricane Maria, the most powerful storm to hit the island in over 80 years. Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico in chaos, as the storm caused immense damage to the power grid, cell reception, banking, transportation, infrastructure, homes, and public health.
San Juan mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz stated that elderly residents face the most danger because they are the most isolated and lack access to medical care. People of all ages and backgrounds have struggled to find shelter, access cash, fill their vehicles with gas, and use safe drinking water. According to the Wall Street Journal, catastrophe-modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated that Hurricane Maria caused $40 billion to $85 billion in insured losses, mostly in Puerto Rico. Even the disaster managers of the area were left without answers because they had no prior experience in handling such a catastrophic event.
President Trump’s response to the storm has been mixed. On September 19th, the day before Maria hit Puerto Rico, Trump tweeted, “Puerto Rico being hit hard by monster hurricane. Be careful, our hearts are with you — will be there to help!” To help the island’s recovery, Trump temporarily lifted the Jones Act, a maritime commerce law that restricts the amount of aid Puerto Rico could receive. He additionally agreed to provide federal funding for 100% of the island’s needed recovery.
At the same time, Trump has been criticized for the response to the crisis in Puerto Rico. He has issued condemnatory comments regarding Puerto Rico’s devastation by the storm, for example in his Twitter thread beginning with, “Texas & Florida are doing great but Puerto Rico, which was already suffering from broken infrastructure & massive debt, is in deep trouble..” [sic]. Some have criticized Trump for not lifting the Jones Act earlier and for only lifting it for ten days. Mayor Cruz has been one of Trump’s strongest critics, claiming that the United States bureaucracy has not been able to prevent the deaths of Puerto Ricans.
Moments of crisis like this can feel overwhelming, but there are many ways that you can help Puerto Rico today. There are several organizations on the ground in Puerto Rico, including the One America Appeal, UNICEF, the Center for Popular Democracy, and the Unidos fund through the Hispanic Federation. To donate to the Unidos fund, which is donating 100% of funds to Hurricane Maria relief, you can text “Unidos [Amount] [Your Name]” to 41444. (An example text would look like Unidos 50 Rachel.) If you like Lin-Manuel Miranda, you can download his song “Almost Like Praying” because 100% of the proceeds from that song will go to the Unidos fund. Additionally, if you are wary of larger nonprofit organizations, you can search GoFundMe for Hurricane Maria-related crowdfunding sites run by individuals or small groups.