Rebuilding the Islands: The Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017

by | Feb 7, 2018 | Headlines, United States Virgin Islands | Comments

With everything that the United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have gone through recently, it must be very hard for the residents of these territories to remain hopeful. After Hurricanes Maria and Irma, life has not been the same in the US Virgin Islands. From extreme power outages, to water contamination with minimal access to healthcare, natives of these islands affected by the hurricanes have felt abandoned in these last few months.

It is great to hear that one senator of the United States couldn’t remain without doing anything. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, along with six cosponsors: Senators Richard Blumenthal (D) of Connecticut, Cory Booker (D) of New Jersey, Kirsten Gillibrand (D) of New York, Kamala Harris (D) of California, Ed Markey (D), and Elizabeth Warren (D) of Massachusetts, have introduced a new legislation that has already been sponsored by 75 non-profit organizations. Reps. Stacey Plaskett (D) of the US Virgin Islands, Nydia M. Velázquez (D) of New York, and Darren Soto (D) of Florida will also introduce a companion bill in the House. Senator Sanders is known for supporting humanitarian causes, and this new introduced bill shows his concern for all people.

Sanders’ bill is called the Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017, and it’s already causing a great reaction amongst Congress members and political figures. It not only aims to restore the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but it also focuses on making sure these rebuilding efforts are long-lasting. They have created a blueprint to rebuild the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, all the while promoting economic growth and offering security to avoid getting into more debt. This legislation is very important to the restoration of the territories affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma, but it also provides residents with better equipped resources that will help to carry out these plans. This act is different than previous rescue efforts because it is an actual plan that will be carried out to secure better economic growth, health, and education for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

Political figures are speaking out about this legislation and sponsors are earning support for the bill as they introduce this idea in order to begin a conversation about what necessary steps should be taken to help with the destruction that these territories have experienced.”The principles and the legislation being announced today provide a framework not just for finally getting control of the ongoing crisis – but ensuring we invest to build Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands back better. This will lay the groundwork for making Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands whole,” said Representative Velázquez.

The bill’s primary focus is on taking certain steps to provide residents of these territories with better quality of life in the following areas:

Energy

The bill plans to use better resources to provide not only rebuilding, but new and improved electric grids that will provide more resilient and economical energy. This will also open new job opportunities for the communities to thrive in.

Medicaid and Medicare

One of the current problems concerns healthcare, as these territories already had inadequate healthcare systems, even before the Hurricanes, and making sure that residents of the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have equal access to Medicaid and Medicare will ensure that their medical needs are met.

Education

The bill will ensure that residents have access to public education and childcare with programs like Head Start, as rebuilding schools is a top priority.

Investment in Infrastructure and Economic Growth

Part of the reason why the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico took such a huge hit was that the territories’ physical infrastructure was not stable. This bill will focus on making sure that funding is invested in the islands’ physical structures, in turn creating more job opportunities as well.

Environmental Cleanup

Considering all of the existing pollution and recent contamination from the Hurricanes, this bill will focus on making sure that the environmental workers will have the appropriate resources for major cleanup. The legislation will allow for grants from the Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Defense to assist in remediation.

Debt

This bill provides Puerto Rico with the security that it will not go into more debt because of the restoration efforts that will be made to the territory. This ensures that the territory can become whole once more with the help of this bill.

What the future has in store for the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico is unknown. So far it’s been more than three months after the Hurricanes and residents are still struggling greatly. 30% of Puerto Ricans are still without power, there are concerns about contamination, displacement, and minimal healthcare, but if this bill is passed, it will allow for some anxieties to be relieved.