While the scope of the crisis in Puerto Rico following Hurricane Maria dominates the news across the country, the resilience of our FBA colleagues to recover and rebuild remains steadfast. Oreste Ramos, a national FBA leader and attorney in San Juan, has shared his firsthand account of conditions on the island and an appeal for continued support.
Dear Members of the FBA Family,
Thanks for all of your thoughts and prayers. They have been of great spiritual sustenance and inspiration during the past few days. Please keep them coming, as we certainly need them.
As you already know, Hurricane María is the worst storm to have hit Puerto Rico in almost a century. The storm impacted the entire island (all 100 x 35 miles of it) as a Category 4 hurricane. The hurricane hit just two weeks after Hurricane Irma, which had knocked out power for most of Puerto Rico. Today, many Puerto Ricans have not had electrical service for about four weeks.
As things stand today, 13 days after the storm, only half of the people have had their running water restored and 95% are still without power. Telecommunications are still spotty. Getting fuel and buying groceries still pose a considerable challenge. Access roads to many rural towns, particularly in the central mountainous region, have been blocked off, impeding first responders and aid from reaching them swiftly.
The good news is that some progress is being made. We have received considerable goods (namely, fuel, water and food) and logistics – coordination between the state government, FEMA and the Armed Forces on the ground – are improving. But we still have a very long road ahead. Case in point, the Governor said today that he expects power to be reestablished in weekly 5% increments. Our electric grid infrastructure was in poor shape even prior to the passing of the storm, and the power authority is going through a restructuring process in federal court. This is just to give you an idea of how dire the situation is with our public utilities. But even though our infrastructure, roads, and landscape are devastated, our resolve and determination are not.
I have been asked by many friends who live stateside how they can help. Although we need supplies, water and food, I believe more focus should be given to impressing upon Congress and federal government officials that the residents of Puerto Rico, as American citizens, need Congress’ and the Administration’s continued help to rebuild our infrastructure. I exhort our FBA members to write to Congress asking it to support the rebuilding efforts, both long- and short-term, of our island’s infrastructure.
Our island cannot move from hurricane alley. It’ll always be there. Due to our decade-long economic recession, Puerto Rico has experienced a massive exodus of productive citizens to the mainland, and if we are not able to return to normalcy soon, I am afraid that the exodus will only accelerate. Even though the island is blessed with natural beauty, it is its people that make Puerto Rico such a special place. And the people of Puerto Rico need a helping hand, now more than ever.
With warm regards,
Oreste R. Ramos
FBA Vice President for the First Circuit
How to Help Victims of Hurricane Maria
SOLACE Helping our Legal Community—Gift Card Drive
Our national SOLACE initiative continues to bring our members who are in need together with other members who are able to offer assistance. SOLACE stands for “Support of Lawyers/Legal Personnel—All Concern Encouraged.” SOLACE allows the FBA legal community to reach out in small but meaningful and compassionate ways to FBA members and those related to them in the legal community. FBA SOLACE is sponsoring a Gift Card Drive; Visa (non-specific store type) gift cards are encouraged. Gift cards will be distributed to our members and to the legal community in need in Puerto Rico. Please send gift cards to: SOLACE, Federal Bar Association, 1220 North Fillmore Street, Suite 444, Arlington, VA 22201. Purchase a gift card online and ship it directly to the FBA.
Foundation of the FBA’s Hurricanes Disaster Relief Fund
The Foundation of the Federal Bar Association is committed to serving the needs of FBA members and offering support to the citizens of Puerto Rico whose lives have been affected by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Maria. To that end, the Foundation has created a Hurricanes Disaster Fund to support FBA Chapters as well as legal aid and other organizations working to provide legal representation and education to impacted communities. Donate today!