Top U.S. Senate leaders and other key legislators committed their full support to help the U.S. Virgin Islands with recovery efforts following Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Sen. Janette Millin Young said Thursday in a news release.
Young said she was the sole representative from the U.S. Virgin Islands to meet with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY), and others in Washington, D.C. this week. Representatives from the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislatures and several White House officials were involved in the talks that initially focused on recovery efforts for Puerto Rico.
“I was able to have the full attention of Sens. McConnell and Schumer as well as the other officials in explaining that although Puerto Rico and its 3.2 million residents are in serious trouble, the U.S. Virgin Islands with its 110,000 residents must be included in the recovery efforts,” Young said.“Every member of Congress, on both sides of the aisle, said ‘You’ve got us,’” she said.
“While we don’t have the number of people in distress that Puerto Rico has, I was able to explain the critical problems our people on St. John, St. Thomas, St. Croix and the smaller islands have been dealing with on a daily basis for the past month,” she said.
President Donald Trump has promised help, but members of Congress make decisions on funding, and how much and where it goes, Young said.
“I am pleased that they are so sympathetic to the plight of the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as to Puerto Rico,” she said.
Young, was on St. Thomas during both hurricanes and her home suffered significant damage. She said she managed to get a ride on a private plane to San Juan last weekend to meet with Puerto Rico’s members of the NHCSL. Kenneth Romero, the group’s executive director, invited Young to participate in the Washington, D.C., meeting, which was organized to address the immediate need for federal money to cover V.I. payroll, contracts, hurricane recovery and community disaster assistance.
Young said she was moved by the expression of friendship and solidarity from the people in Puerto Rico and was impressed by the stance of San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz that drew national attention to the delays in Puerto Rico receiving help following the storms. Cruz gave Young a tour of Puerto Rico’s emergency operations center in San Juan. During the tour, Cruz andYoung were interviewed by the CBS-TV newsmagazine “60 Minutes.”
“Hurricanes Irma and Maria emphasized the common struggles both territories experience after a natural disaster. And I’m very pleased with the bipartisan support in Washington that understands the needs of both of the U.S. territories in the Caribbean,” Young said.