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Puerto Rico groups pushing for ‘Marshall Plan’ to help the island

Four months after Hurricane Maria laid waste to Puerto Rico, a coalition of groups and artists met in Orlando Monday morning to remind the public that still more than a half-million homes and businesses there still are without electricity, and to declare the island needs a “Marshall Plan” of federal help.

“Today Puerto Rico is facing the longest blackout in the history of the United States,” Marcos Vilar, campaign director for Power4PuertoRico said in a small rally across the street from the Orlando office of Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. “About 500,000 families and businesses still do not have power or electricity. It is unconscionable that we haven’t done more.”

His group led a coalition Monday joined by the Hispanic Federation, Iniciativa Accion Puertoriquena, Women of the Storm and other groups, including the progressive political Democratic group Organize Florida, calling on Congress to adopt more robust relief, with fewer strings, for Puerto Rico to recover from Hurricane Maria.

The groups will be rallying outside Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio‘s office in Miami later this week.

Vilar said the disaster bailout package approved late last month by the U.S. House of Representatives for $91 billion in relief for Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Florida, Texas, and California provides the money only for matching grants, and the islands cannot afford to match them right now.

And it’s not enough, considering Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello said earlier this month Puerto Rico alone has $94 billion in reconstruction needs.

Betsy Franceschini, Florida director for the Hispanic Federation called for Congress to consider a “Marshall Plan”-like package to assist the islanders, and to aid the Puerto Ricans who evacuated to Florida and elsewhere in the past four months. She said the island has suffered through two major disasters, the economic collapse of 2016, followed by the hurricanes of September 2017.

Written By

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.

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