Sen. Nelson on Puerto Rico: 'We're sure letting them down right now'

By Katie Jones, Reporter
Last Updated: Friday, December 29, 2017, 6:03 PM EST

Just days after U.S. Senator Bill Nelson traveled to Puerto Rico with Rep. Darren Soto to see the challenges still facing the island for himself, he met with Tampa area Puerto Rican community leaders about the ongoing relief efforts.

  • Nearly half of island's residents still without power 100 days after Maria
  • First time Puerto Rican authorities have released that statistic
  • Nelson takes jabs at Republican-led tax bill, says it harms Puerto Rico

"The people are resilient but how long do they have to go through this suffering?" Nelson said.

Nelson added he believes the U.S. government lagged in response time, forcing the Puerto Rican people to suffer.

"Here in Florida if we had gone 97 days without electricity, people would be so hopping mad," Nelson said. "You can't get back to normal until you have electricity and all your water is potable. You can't get back to normal if your doctor that you relied on is no longer there."

One hundred days after Hurricane Maria ravaged Puerto Rico, nearly half of the residents are still without power.

Puerto Rican authorities released the number on Friday. It is the first time they’ve given that statistic -- until then, they had only given updates on power generation.

Nelson assured the group that he will continue to fight for funds and resources, but said he wasn’t getting much help in Washington. He reiterated that Congress desperately needs to pass an emergency disaster funding bill, which he said the Senate is expected to take up next week.

He said the people of Puerto Rico shouldn’t have to wait any longer.

"At the end of the day Puerto Rico will be fine, but we're sure letting them down right now," Nelson said.

During Friday’s meeting, Nelson also made jabs at the Republican-led tax bill recently passed by Congress and signed by President Trump. He said the bill treats Puerto Rico like a foreign government, taking away manufacturing incentives it once enjoyed.

Democrats said that may slow recovery on the island even more, but the White House said provisions in the tax bill actually protect Puerto Rico.