by Xander Causwell
On April 11, 2018, the Georgetown Center for Social Justice (CSJ) hosted Congresswomen Stacey Plaskett (SFS’88) and Jenniffer Gonzalez-Colon for a discussion about the state of recovery in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. Congresswoman Plaskett is Delegate to the U.S House of Representatives from the U.S. Virgin Islands At-Large Congressional District, and Congresswoman Gonzalez Colon is the current Resident Commissioner of Puerto Rico.
Although over half a year has passed since the islands have been hit by the hurricane, the Congresswomen explained that their territories are still suffering the residual effects:
“53,000 families are still without power…For me that’s the most important thing to face. We are not yet in the recovery mode; we are still in the emergency mode,” Colon said. Plaskett agreed. “For us, our utility is back up. It’s not what we would like, but it is back up… Debris has not left the island as yet. It’s been collected, it’s been contained, but there are still negotiations as to who’s going to get it and how it’s going to be operated.”
The Congresswomen also explained how the territorial status of both the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico have compounded their delayed recovery:
“Many of the issues we have in dealing with the disaster were exacerbated by the benign neglect of Congress over many, many years. The territories were not treated in the same way that the rest of the United States were,” Plaskett said. Colon pointed out that parts of Puerto Rico were still without power, saying, “If Puerto Rico was a state, and still without power…that would never happen.”