News Articles

Success in Light of Setbacks in Puerto Rico

By Jim Sliney Jr

On January 7th 2020, Puerto Rico had the biggest of several earthquakes, a 6.4 magnitude (considered very strong). They have been hit several times and the loss of life and security is hard to measure, especially since they are not yet recovered from the 2017 hurricanes that killed hundreds and devastated the island.

Earlier this month Catholic Charities of New York told you about the money they raised and sent to Caritas (an independent Catholic charity in Puerto Rico) and to the New York Foundling to help the people of Puerto Rico following these natural disasters. At that time $30,000 had been raised and given to this effort, but the need is still ongoing.

According to reporting in CatholicPhilly.com the Knights of Columbus have joined the efforts to provide help to Puerto Rico. The Knights are on the ground in Puerto Rico. State deputy of the Knights of Columbus, Jose Vazquez-Padilla, led an effort to purchase canopies to help some of the now-homeless citizens. The Knights were there cooking food for them as well.

The funds raised through Catholic Charities of New York, combined with second-collection funds asked for by Cardinal Dolan have now grown to $80,000.

EARTHQUAKES ARE NOT THE ONLY PROBLEM

In recent news, we’ve learned that disaster-relief supplies from Hurricane Maria in 2017, were found sitting idle and unused in a warehouse. Terrible news at a time when Puerto Ricans find themselves in such dire need of support. This discovery has led to major protests and civil unrest in Puerto Rico, pointing to some of the concerns about government mismanagement that have caused the US to withhold billions in disaster relief going back to 2018. But then there was some good news.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) just agreed on January 15th to release over $8 billion in Community Development Block Grants that has been held up since Hurricane Maria. Congresswoman Jennifer Gonzalez Colon told Politico, “We’ve been fighting for this for many months so I’m happy that finally [the Office of Management and Budget] and HUD approved the notification.” She added that Puerto Rico needs the aid “now more than ever after the earthquakes. It’s the best news in months.”

THE VALUE IN NON-GOVERNMENT ORGANIZATIONS

Reverend Enrique Camacho, the executive director of Caritas of Puerto Rico reassures that there is a significant difference between government-controlled efforts and those of the faith-based nonprofits. He said in reference to the long-withheld HUD aid, “If the president does not trust government [of Puerto Rico], he should provide funds to nonprofits, like us, the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, or else, send someone to Puerto Rico from his administration and monitor whoever. … But the most important thing is to give it to the people.”

Non-government coalition efforts like cooperation of Catholic Charities of New York, the Archdiocese of New York, Estoy con Puerto Rico, and Caritas of Puerto Rico show us that when the politics are removed and the focus is kept on helping people where they need it, when they need it, things get done.

Catholic Charities is responding to the needs of our neighbors during the 
COVID-19 pandemic.

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