WASHINGTON — Florida Sen. Marco Rubio this afternoon said he is encouraged by the federal response to the crisis in Puerto Rico but warned of potentially deadly circumstances and the logistical challenges of getting equipment to the financially-strapped island.
“This is going to require a different level, a higher intensity level of response from the federal agencies,” Rubio told reporters after attending a White House briefing.
“The emergency issue before us today is not money in the next 24-48 hours,” he said. “The emergency issue we have today is the capacity to deliver and distribute aid to the places that need it the most in Puerto Rico. And that today is still not in place and every day that goes by ... the situation will grow harder.”
Asked if he’s concerned about a “Katrina-like” situation if that aid is hindered, Rubio said: “I’m concerned about human suffering and the potential loss of life if aid doesn’t reach the places it needs to reach quickly enough.”
“It’s easy to sit back after a storm and point fingers and assign blame. This was an unusual event coming on the heels of two other unusual events that strained our response systems,” Rubio said, noting the challenge of shipping or airlifting equipment and Puerto Rico’s existing fiscal problems.
“I hope that we don’t see Katrina-like images and we’re going to do everything we can to avoid that from happening. I view my role here today as raising the alarm about the reality, that there are over 3 million American citizens who are potentially in the grips of a growing, signifciant humanitarian crisis.”
Not long before Rubio spoke, Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson gave a speech on the Senate floor echoing some of Rubio’s alarm. He also said more money will be needed.
“The cost of rebuilding is going to be in the billions,” Nelson said. “We have done a temporary measure of $15 billion. That’s running out. We’re going to have to do something in the immediate for the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, but there is going to be a continuing cost in Texas and a huge cost in Florida.”
“I hope that we can work together to get an aid package soon that helps all of those affected by the storms as soon as possible,” Nelson concluded. “Why? Because we are all Americans. We need to act like it. We need to come together and get on the long road to recovery.”