WASHINGTON, D.C.—Natural Resources chair Raúl M. Grijalva and 12 bipartisan members of Congress recently sent a letter to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar, urging him to consider the vulnerable economic and public health infrastructure in the U.S. territories when determining criteria for prioritizing the distribution of coronavirus resources.
The full letter was signed by committee vice chair Gregorio Kilili C. Sablan (Ind-MP) and Reps. Michael F.Q. San Nicolas (D-Guam), Stacey E. Plaskett (D-USVI), Jenniffer Gonzaělez-Coloěn (R-P.R.), Aumua Amata C. Radewagen (R-A. Samoa), Nydia M. Velaězquez (D-NY), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Joseě E. Serrano (D-NY), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas), Jesuěs G. “Chuy” Garciěa (D-Ill.) and Juan Vargas (D-Calif.).
The lawmakers asked the Trump administration to take into account the unique “challenges and vulnerabilities” that the U.S. territories face, especially Puerto Rico, which has faced “an economic crisis, a series of recent natural disasters, and unequal access and treatment under federal programs.”
U.S. territories have less developed public health infrastructure than most comparable mainland communities, and several have aging population and higher rates of hypertension, coronary heart disease, asthma, and incidences of other infectious diseases such as dengue, compared to U.S. averages.
The lawmakers wrote: “We urge HHS to consider the vulnerable economic and public health infrastructure in the territories when determining the criteria for prioritizing the distribution of COVID-19 resources to ensure these jurisdictions receive sufficient test kits, protective equipment and other lifesaving supplies to respond to this pandemic.”
Grijalva, Sablan, and San Nicolas hosted a virtual roundtable on federal coronavirus response in U.S. territories in April, where they heard from witnesses about the lack of response from the Trump administration to combat coronavirus in Puerto Rico, Guam, the CNMI, the U.S. Virgin Islands and American Samoa.
See the complete letter at https://bit.ly/3cGJsat. (PR)