Jenniffer González reports on federal aid for Puerto Rico in Irma’s aftermath

by | Sep 13, 2017 | Federal Government | Comments

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón, reported today on the efforts of several federal agencies to support Puerto Rico’s recovery, at the same time thanking local and federal public servants for their titanic work in the face of the emergency.

The US Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and its federal partners are actively coordinating the federal response to Hurricane Irma.

Staffs from the FEMA Caribbean Area Division are on the ground in Puerto Rico to provide support to Commonwealth and local officials as requested.  Additionally, FEMA Incident Management Assistance Teams (IMAT) are deployed to the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Six Mobile Emergency Response Support (MERS) personnel also are deployed to support communications needs for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

FEMA maintains commodities strategically located at distribution centers throughout the United States and its territories. More than 209,000 meals and 114,000 liters of water are positioned across the US Virgin Islands, and more than 290,000 meals and 600,000 liters of water are positioned in Puerto Rico.

The US Department of Education is actively coordinating with affected stakeholders in the Caribbean and with those who yet remain in the path of Hurricane Irma. The Department continues to prepare and distribute administrative and regulatory flexibility documents to alleviate the regulatory burden on stakeholders when they start the rebuilding process.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is in the process of securing and assessing Superfund sites; compiling data for regulated facilities; granting fuel waivers to help stabilize prices at the pump and ensure emergency vehicles have access to fuel; and, preparing for infrastructure assessments and environmental sampling following the storm.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) continues to pre-position technicians, emergency response equipment, and mobile air navigation aids to quickly restore air traffic control services to storm affected regions. The agency also continues to impose airspace restrictions to allow first responder aircraft to safely navigate as well as issue special waivers to drone operators for storm inspection and damage assessment.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is monitoring the status of communications networks in the areas affected by Hurricane Irma and has created a dedicated webpage for daily communications status reports, information, and resources related to the hurricane, including tips for communicating during an emergency.

General Services Administration (GSA), through USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov, continue to support federal agency messaging efforts on their home pages and are compiling federal agency updates and messaging on their new Hurricane Irma pages.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is maintaining two HHS medical teams are in Puerto Rico and four additional teams are pre-positioned in the region to assist response efforts throughout the region to Hurricane Irma. HHS Secretary Tom Price, M.D., declared public health emergencies for Florida on Thursday and for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands on Wednesday to help residents receive unimpeded care from local providers and healthcare facilities. Additionally, the Disaster Distress Helpline, a toll-free call center, continues to be available at 1-800-985-5990 to aid people in coping with the behavioral health effects of the storm and help people in impacted areas connect with local behavioral health professionals.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has offices in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands that will remain closed until they can fully assess the extent of damage to their facilities, and the impact to their employees and customers. The Atlanta Region is preparing for Hurricane Irma to reach the southern United States.  In anticipation, the region closed additional offices to allow employees to safely evacuate.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has received FEMA Mission Assignments for temporary power, and is deploying 4 Power Planning and Response Teams to assist with assessments and generator installations in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, Florida, and South Carolina.

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) posted the operational status of USCIS field offices and Applications Support Centers (ASC) in the path of Hurricane Irma. USCIS also highlighted its Special Situations page on the website, detailing how natural catastrophes may affect applications, petitions, and immigration status.

US Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) is providing urban search and rescue capabilities to the US Virgin Islands (USVI) and Puerto Rico to assist with lifesaving and life-sustaining efforts following Hurricane Irma.

The US Marine Corps (USMC), in total, 1,000 Marines, 11 USMC aircraft, and three expected additional aircraft are supporting hurricane relief efforts.

The US Coast Guard (USCG) personnel, working with local officials, are currently conducting damage assessment over flights and port facility inspections in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Ports in San Juan, Puerto Rico are open with restrictions.

The United States Postal Service (USPS) emergency preparedness and response priorities include employee, customer and supplier safety and ensuring open lines of communications. Local press releases, Industry Alerts, social media and employee communication channels are keeping customers, employees and the news media updated with the latest information. Operations are being adjusted to be in line with evacuation orders and based on the arrival of the storm. The latest USPS service status is available on the Service Alerts page.

The US Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) directed VA staff to break down barriers and eliminate any red tape to ensure that Veterans evacuating due to Hurricane Irma receive seamless care at any VA health care facility throughout the nation, especially the Southeast. Veterans will be offered mental health, homeless services, and health care through medical centers, clinics, and mobile medical units as needed.