Governor updates US Senate committee on PR’s coronavirus response, urges ‘robust’ congressional act
By John McPhaul
Gov. Wanda Vázquez Garced sent a letter to the chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Lisa Murkowski, and Ranking Member Joe Manchin III to provide an update on Puerto Rico’s efforts to slow the spread of the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.
The letter describes the island government’s response and urges congressional action as Puerto Rico continues to recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017 and the ongoing earthquakes that began on Dec. 28, 2019 and continue to impact the island, the governor said Tuesday in a press release.
“In the letter, Vázquez Garced provided a summary of Executive Order OE-2020-023, issued on March 15, 2020, that mandated an islandwide lockdown and imposed a curfew, highlighting that this was the first such measure taken by any jurisdiction in the Nation,” the press release said.
The governor added that among the many measures she has taken to control the influx of visitors to the island, the Federal Aviation Administration approved her request to redirect all commercial air traffic to Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport in San Juan as well as close the island’s ports to all cruise ships.
Also, Puerto Rico was the first jurisdiction to activate the National Guard to impose 100 percent passenger health screening at the airport.
Lastly, the governor provided a summary of the island’s comprehensive relief package of $787 million to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.
The letter also provided a timeline of the disbursement of federal emergency funding through the Coronavirus Relief Fund Disbursement Program and the government’s stewardship of federal COVID-19-related emergency funding, providing the committee with transparency and accountability.
“These measures combined facilitated the Government’s response to the threat of COVID-19 and have protected the physical, mental, and economic health of the people of Puerto Rico,” the press release said.
“As Governor of Puerto Rico, I have taken and will continue to take the necessary measures to ensure the health, safety, and well being of our people during this COVID-19 pandemic. Puerto Rico has led by example, and we are proud of our work,” Vázquez said. “However, there’s much more to be done. As Puerto Rico continues to recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria of 2017 amid the virus outbreak, we must not forget that the island continues to be impacted by ongoing earthquakes and that robust Congressional action is needed. We will continue to provide accountability for federal funding to ensure that elected officials in Congress have access to the necessary information as they work on additional legislation to provide relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration Executive Director Jennifer M. Storipan added that “[i]f we want to bolster the island’s economy and provide relief amid this pandemic, we need Congressional action.”
“Every day, Puerto Rico continues to be hit by earthquakes that affect the island’s infrastructure and impact the mental health of residents,” Storipan said. “Our priority is to secure resources that provide adequate response during this ongoing emergency and preparedness as we move [into] hurricane season 2020. We will continue to provide the Committee with the necessary information as they work on legislation amid this COVID-19 pandemic.”