Amy Klobuchar speaks about ‘dysfunction’ in response to disasters in Puerto Rico

Sen. Amy Klobuchar spoke at the Bring Change 2 Hartford Conference at the Connecticut Convention Center on Monday, touting her support for reforming the disaster relief process after the state’s series of natural disasters. The treatment “created inequality and sent a signal of hopelessness about our ability to recover and build our future,” she said.

Klobuchar’s talk, during which she also took a chance to plug a bill she was sponsoring that would fund broadband for the state, followed a White House oversight briefing where Attorney General Jeff Sessions was grilled about the administration’s approach to responding to past disasters. Klobuchar suggested that the lack of clear guidelines for which projects should be prioritized meant disaster relief funds were being spent inefficiently. “When you have a failure, something to do with the way disaster aid is put into practice, what becomes very clear is that we are not spending and we are not prioritizing the kinds of funds that are most important,” she said.

Klobuchar’s comments came a few days after top Democrats in the House blasted the Trump administration’s response to Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, saying that “because the Trump administration treated Puerto Rico as a federal problem to be solved rather than an American problem to be solved, the results were the worst disaster in American history.” The angry statements from committee members, including U.S. Rep. Nydia Velazquez, a New York Democrat, came after the administration declared last week that nearly $500 million of federal relief funding allocated for Puerto Rico was being returned. The administration argued that it only used the money on “critical infrastructure” like infrastructure in and around San Juan, not for larger projects such as hospital repairs. The Democrats, who are in the process of constructing their own aid package to help Puerto Rico, also emphasized that the administration’s decision “was outrageous and ludicrous.”

Klobuchar, also speaking at Monday’s event, said she is hopeful the Trump administration’s treatment of Puerto Rico will not be repeated when federal funds are allocated for natural disasters around the country.

“This is not a problem that is going to go away,” she said. “This is going to require a change to our process. That’s why I’m here today. We’re going to fight. We’re going to do everything to get this passed. We are going to make sure that it gets done this year.”

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