(July 29, 2020- Washington, D.C.) – Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced announced today that the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump, signed the Emergency Declaration for Direct Federal Assistance (DFA per its English acronym) for Puerto Rico. The DFA is an immediate and short-term measure that will allow the federal government to carry out or contract the corresponding work after the Tropical Disturbance Invest 92-L.
This emergency declaration covers all the island’s 78 municipalities. It will allow the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to assist Puerto Rico in emergency protection measures, under Categories A (Public Assistance Debris Removal) and Emergency Protective Measures, Categories B, grant reimbursement for mass care and sheltering support, and DFA.
“As a result of the imminent threat posed by this tropical disturbance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, I made the hard choice of declaring a state of emergency for the island,” said Governor Wanda Vázquez Garced. “I have requested personnel, equipment, and supplies. These measures are to provide an effective, robust response in the event of this storm. I also requested food, generators, water, and tarps. It is worth noting that Puerto Rico is managing three emergencies at the time: the island continues to experience seismic events; we have the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic; and now this tropical disturbance”.
The Governor expressed her gratitude to President Trump, Rear Admiral Brown, and FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor for the prompt response to the emergency declaration and stated that “As the Governor of Puerto Rico, I am grateful for the excellent relationship and partnership we have with the White House and federal officials. Today, more than ever, we see the federal government’s confidence in our work, and I know that together we will save lives during this heightened time of concern for our island”.
As part of the measures to save lives and protect health and safety, Puerto Rico has taken appropriated action under local law and directed the execution of the Government’s emergency plan by continuing to maintain Puerto Rico’s Emergency Operation Center (EOC). The EOC was already fully active because of the response of FEMA-4473-DR (earthquakes) and FEMA-4493-DR (COVID-19).
Additionally, the Governor explained that the Government of Puerto Rico would commit additional resources, including human resources, first responders, and others as the storm continues to approach and the damage is assessed. There is also the challenge of this ongoing pandemic and necessary measures are being taken of non-congregated sheltering since conventional sheltering is not an option in the COVID-19 environment. The Governor also expressed her intention to commit additional resources for other reimbursable, mass care activities that can be reimbursed under Category B emergency protective measures under a Federal Emergency Declaration.
Under FEMA’s Category B grant assistance, the Governor also included medical evacuations of vulnerable populations with medical needs off-island, and aid with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, since under a FEMA mission assignment, they can help with debris removal and sandbagging.
“Puerto Rico is currently managing three emergencies at the same time. Our island continues to be impacted by earthquakes, we are seeing a spike in cases of COVID-19, and now we are facing a new threat because of this tropical storm,” said Executive Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Jennifer M. Storipan, Esq. “Our priority is to protect lives; we will work together with the White House and local municipalities to ensure the safety of our people. Our relationship with the federal government has never been better. We expect swift action and open channels of communications as we move forward with our strategic plan during this emergency and our recovery efforts in the aftermath of this storm”.