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NJ leaders call for improved emergency response in Puerto Rico

Posted at 8:05 PM, Jan 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-17 20:05:54-05

NEWARK — A united front of elected leaders and community leaders came together in Newark on Friday to call for more aid for Puerto Rico following a 6.4-magnitude earthquake and subsequent aftershocks that have rattled residents and destroyed hundreds of homes.

"The people of Puerto Rico need our help today. Not tomorrow, not next week, not in a few months. They need it today. And that is what we are here to demand!" exclaimed New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez.

Nearly 8,000 people are in shelters.

"It’s really scary to think my brother is in a situation like that," said Maria Menendez Rivera, who had her brother on speaker phone to listen in as leaders demanded more disaster aid for the island.

Victor Rivera lives in the disaster zone.

"It’s a little nerve-racking but I guess were trying to adapt," he said over the phone.

Rivera said he evacuated to a shelter but was forced back into his home when an illness started to spread through the camp, sickening his wife and children. Their home may or may not be structurally sound.

"Our house right now has a couple of cracks underneath," he said.

President Trump approved a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on Thursday and the White House said individuals can begin applying for grants, but Menendez railed the administration for holding up $18.2 billion in disaster funding approved 2 years ago after Hurricane Maria struck.

"We’re a part of the United States, so we shouldn’t be treated like that," said Menendez Rivera.

The Trump administration just released a portion of that money this week, approximately $8.3 billion.

"It’s just one more example of the administration's complete disregard, complete disrespect, and disdain for the more than 3.5 million American citizens who called Puerto Rico home," said Senator Menendez.