Politics

Buttigieg says he wants to fix ‘bureaucratic mess’ after disasters like hurricanes

Residents deal with navigating high water throughout San Juan as Hurricane Maria left many streets flooded and blocked by fallen power lines, trees, and debris while Puerto Rico tries to recover from the Category 4 storm on Thursday, September 21, 2017.
Residents deal with navigating high water throughout San Juan as Hurricane Maria left many streets flooded and blocked by fallen power lines, trees, and debris while Puerto Rico tries to recover from the Category 4 storm on Thursday, September 21, 2017. cjuste@miamiherald.com

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg says he wants to fix what he calls the “bureaucratic mess” of applying for federal aid after natural disasters, with a focus on Florida, Puerto Rico and other U.S. coastal areas.

In an eight-page proposal released Tuesday, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, said that if he is elected, he will propose a “community-centered Disaster Commission” within the first 100 days of his administration to help communities struck by hurricanes and flooding.

“We’ll bring together everyone involved in disaster response and rebuilding — from federal agencies to state, local, and tribal officials, to volunteer organizations — all overseen by a senior White House official with direct access to the Oval Office,” the Democratic candidate said in the new proposal, rolled out days before the second anniversary of Hurricane Maria’s landfall in Puerto Rico.

The set of recommendations also calls for “a national culture of disaster resilience,” by giving federal funding to volunteer organizations and increasing a budget for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s community programs.

Buttigieg would create a permanent source for disaster relief funds, while increasing partnerships with the private sector, including companies that provide drone technology after disasters and solar-powered energy sources in essential public buildings.

“The threat of climate change is too big for government to solve alone,” Buttigieg said. “Private partnerships are essential to prepare for the worst.”

Buttigieg also said he wants to address the inefficient responses to recent devastating hurricanes, including Irma and Maria in 2017 and Michael in 2018. He also said he would protect FEMA funding destined to fund disaster recovery, alluding to President Donald Trump’s shifting of millions from the FEMA budget to fund immigration enforcement.

Butigieg’s campaign said the Democratic candidate drew up many of his recommendations after meeting with Puerto Ricans living in Central Florida. After Hurricane Maria, an estimated 50,000 people fled the island to permanently live in Florida. The figure adds to the approximately 1.2 million Puerto Ricans already living in the state, according to the Census Bureau’s 2017 American Communities Survey.

Bianca Padró Ocasio is a general assignment reporter for the Miami Herald. She has been a Florida journalist for several years, covering everything from crime and courts to hurricanes and politics. Her bilingual work telling the stories of the Puerto Rican community in Central Florida has been previously recognized by the Florida Society of News Editors and the Florida Sunshine State Awards.
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