Grassroots International

Demand a Just Recovery and Relief Aid Package for Puerto Rico

On September 20, Hurricane Maria decimated Puerto Rico. Farms, homes and the environment were destroyed by the 150+ mph winds and torrential rains. Weeks later 95% of the population is still without power. Many residents are struggling to access food, water and fuel to run generators. These impacts come on top of the impacts of a deep, human-made disaster — one with its roots in the US colonial relationship with Puerto Rico. 

The US has a particular responsibility to Puerto Rico, however the US has been slow to respond, and despite an all-too-short 10-day waiver, has kept antiquated laws like the Jones Act from allowing foreign aid to reach Puerto Rico. 

We are demanding a Just Recovery that would reduce pollution and debt, expose and challenge systemic racism, deepen democracy, and leave behind a sturdier, more resilient infrastructure. The principles of a Just Recovery are based on a regenerative economy and climate justice approach to the crisis led by the people of Puerto Rico.

Join us and the Climate Justice Alliance in demanding Congress pass an immediate substantial federal Just Recovery and Relief Aid Package.


As Naomi Klein pointed out, history has shown that far too often, disaster aid can leave behind more pollution, more debt, less democracy, and a weaker infrastructure. In contrast, a Just Recovery would reduce pollution, reduce debt, challenge systemic racism, deepen democracy, and leave behind a sturdier, more resilient public sphere. This is not business as usual or an opportunity for Wall Street to make money off of vulnerable communities. This moment requires a proactive vision, strong coordination, and a regenerative economic and environmental approach to the crisis, informed by the people of Puerto Rico.

It is clear that the US has a particular responsibility to the people of Puerto Rico.

I demand that members of Congress pass an immediate, substantial federal Just Recovery and Relief Aid Package for Puerto Rico that incorporates this vision, and that includes:

* Full debt relief for Puerto Rico, so that it can recover with dignity.

* Permanent lifting of the Jones Act, an unfair law that has delayed relief to Puerto Rico and has kept the cost of living high due to the exorbitant cost of shipping goods to the island. The devastation in Puerto Rico will require unrestricted access to imported goods and resources for any foreseeable future and the free movement of relief for an indefinite period.

* A transparent decision-making process for the distribution of resources, and in the long term, investments in towns and districts where they are most needed, including individual homeowners.

* A complete assessment of all Puerto Rico’s infrastructure: energy-grids, transportation, communications, water, sewage facilities, and other resources.

* Review of zoning codes and ordinances for urban and rural development to assure that they are updated and able to withstand increased future disasters, climate-induced and otherwise.

* Detailed screening for environmental justice concerns, including mapping of Superfund sites, dams, and other potential public health hazards, as well as site prioritization for environmental quality testing of water, soil, and air.

* Relief and rebuilding should comply with Executive Order 12898, which directs federal agencies to identify and address the disproportionately high and adverse human health or environmental effects of their actions on minority and low-income populations. The order directs each agency to develop a strategy for implementing environmental justice, and is intended to promote non-discrimination in federal programs that affect human health and the environment, as well as provide minority and low-income communities access to public information and public participation. To this end, we call for coordinated relief actions on the ground that incorporate FEMA, EPA, NIEHS, DOT, DOE, and all relevant federal agencies in a strategic and concerted way, that is inclusive, transparent, and maximizes public input, from earliest planning through implementation and evaluation.

* Designation of sufficient funds and technical support for Puerto Rico to design and develop, with the sectors that have been most impacted, a plan that incorporates renewable energy, flood-resistant infrastructure, and environmental assessment to restore local agro-ecological farms and the ecology of the island, in ways that assure a more sustainable, equitable, and secure life for all residents.

* Any plan undertaken should serve to put Puerto Rican workers back to work as soon as possible, providing training and protection from environmental pollution they may encounter while carrying out their work of rebuilding Puerto Rico. Regeneration should be in the hands of Puerto Ricans, led by Puerto Ricans, and for Puerto Ricans.

Thank you in advance for standing with our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico to support a speedy, long-term, and just recovery for Puerto Rico.


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