The U.S. government has a tendency to ignore areas struggling from disaster after a catastrophe has become “irrelevant” in the eyes of the media and popular culture. This makes repairing damage and caring for the injured after a natural disaster extremely difficult.
Last hurricane season, Puerto Rico was hit by both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria. The U.S. territory is still struggling to make repairs before the start of the next hurricane season. Almost nine months after Hurricane Maria made landfall on the island, Puerto Rico is still left fending for itself.
The struggle started almost immediately after the storm when an insufficient amount of utility workers were sent from the mainland in a timely manner. The government did not send aid to Puerto Rico directly after the storm. Instead, it slowly funneled in about 3,000 utility workers. Compared to the 10,000 workers sent almost immediately to Texas and Louisiana after Hurricane Harvey, Puerto Rico was already set up to remain in a tough situation.
After months of struggle and little electricity, Puerto Rico’s main source of help, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), pulled out and “finished” their job at the end of February. This was terrible for the U.S. territory because the damage was far from being fixed. The federal government should get into the habit of finishing what they start. This is not the first time that a disaster area had trouble receiving aid from the government.
In October 2012, Superstorm Sandy pummeled east coast states such as New Jersey and New York. Directly after the storm, the states that were affected had a very difficult time acquiring the aid that they needed, because there had to be a vote on it in the legislative branch.
Now, in 2018, some people that live on the coast are still suffering from the damage done nearly six years ago. In order to avoid repeating this, the federal government should not require a vote for whether or not a state earns aid and automatically give the state or territory a minimum amount of money.
People that are suffering should not have to rely on others to determine whether they get the relief that is necessary for their survival. The government should put forth its best effort to provide an area with all of the help that it needs so its inhabitants have a suitable place to live.
In Flint, Mich., the governor has just declared the water clean in April. After a terrible chain of events in 2014, the water in Flint was toxic to drink and could, over time, cause cancer to those that ingested it. In 2016, the governor applied to declare a disaster, but instead, President Obama gave them $5 million in aid and declared a state of emergency in the city. This was moderately helpful because FEMA stepped in, but the president only gave Flint five of the $55 million dollars that the repairs were estimated to cost.
Despite this “help,” it still took two more years for the water in Flint to be declared safe to drink and cook with again. If someone, somewhere is crying out for help, someone else should step in and do what’s necessary for that person to remain safe. If people’s lives are being threatened, it is the responsibility of the government to help and to provide the appropriate amount of aid.
On many occasions, people recognize that there is danger and they try to alert the government, but officials only take action if there is an immediate threat. The United States is a reactive country, not a proactive country. This country rarely, if ever, takes preventative measures for looming threats. After tragedy occurs, there can only be regret for not acting sooner.
If the federal government had an effective program to put money aside for natural disasters, areas in need could get the immediate aid they need, giving the government some time to find more money in the event of a disaster. The government and FEMA should not be allowed to stop helping people that are in need. The United States abandoned Puerto Rico as if it wasn’t even one of its territories and the government left the poor people in need to fend for themselves.
One of the main principles that this country was built upon is that everyone should have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Without the appropriate help from the government, the citizens of the United States are robbed of these rights.
Photo courtesy of Change.org