Houses with blue tarps

Almost two year after Hurricane Maria devastated the island 30,000 families still sleep under blue tarps. >Carlos Rivera Giusti

As I wrote these lines, a famous Aesop’s fable came to mind – The Old Man and his Sons. As the old man nears death, he calls his sons and gives them a lesson in the need for unity. He teaches them that while each son individually, if acting alone, can be overcome and overpowered; combined, joining forces together, they are invincible no matter how strong the opponent is. The moral drawn from the fable is that “brotherly love is the greatest good in life and often lifts the humble higher.”

In key moments in our history, we have proven this fable to be right.

Vieques was being used as a naval training range since 1941 by the U.S. military. Our determination to have the U.S. Navy end its military operations in 2001 and leave the island completely in 2003, is a good example of what can be accomplished when the people of Puerto Rico, in a united front, join together for a common good.

Another example is how we together petitioned for the Central American and Caribbean Games Organization to select Puerto Rico in 2010 for the games held every four years. Thirty-three countries from the region competing in 32 sports were represented in Mayagüez at the opening ceremony. Sixteen municipalities in the western part of Puerto Rico benefited from this event.

Today, due to special circumstances, we have the same opportunity to work together toward a common goal. The economic recovery of Puerto Rico depends on our ability to attract and properly invest the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery (CDBG-DR) federal funds. The public and private sector have joined forces to convince the federal government that bureaucratic barriers that severely detain the much-needed investment in priority projects, must be relaxed or eliminated. With only one voice, we are seeking an immediate solution to the fact that many homeowners affected by Hurricane Maria do not possess titles to their properties and, under such circumstances, FEMA’s regulations do not permit the agency to disburse funds for their reconstruction. Regulations must therefore be amended to accommodate this highly unusual and particular condition and allow the funds to flow.

Lastly, again together, we are requesting from FEMA that it amend its regulations that require, only for Puerto Rico by the way, that an intermediary be used whenever a project is to be funded under the Stafford Act. Such a requisite is not required by the Act as approved by Congress.

Like Aesop’s fable, as we unite purposes and forces for the recovery of Puerto Rico, our chances of success are greater. History has shown us many failures by pursuing individual goals and not the common good. United under one voice, we are stronger. Puerto Rico demands action now and together we will succeed.

House of Representatives Minority Leader and Former House of Representatives Chairman of the Treasury & Budget Committee

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