Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced new legislation last week to finance relief and recovery efforts in Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Maria. The Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017 (S. 2165) – a comprehensive $146 billion relief package – includes NWA’s requested $14 million appropriation to supplement WIC infrastructure funding for agencies affected by a Presidentially declared disaster. Infrastructure grants can be used to repair and restore WIC clinics, equipment, and systems.
WIC clinics and agencies on Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands sustained significant damage during Hurricane Maria. Both state agencies are working out of temporary offices as their buildings have been deemed uninhabitable. Dozens of clinics are without power and have been relocated to satellite locations, often with limited capacity and hours. NWA has been in contact with both state agencies and recognizes the urgent need for relief and federal assistance in revitalizing program infrastructure.
S. 2165 is currently cosponsored by six other senators: Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Ed Markey (D-MA), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Cory Booker (D-NJ). San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz – a fierce advocate for disaster relief – has endorsed the proposal.
However, this bill exceeds the $94 billion request made by Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló and is unlikely to proceed to a vote in Congress. Nonetheless, NWA is encouraged by the inclusion of this $14 million funding request in legislation, as it recognizes and elevates the role of WIC in providing relief after natural disasters.
Instead, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees are developing a separate proposal that is a more probable vehicle for disaster relief and likely to be considered by Congress in the coming weeks. NWA urges inclusion of its $14 million funding request in the committees’ bill.
NWA continues to actively monitor developments in the appropriations and budget process to ensure that state agencies affected by natural disasters have the resources that they need to rebuild WIC clinics.