Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty is flying to Puerto Rico today along with mayors of three other U.S. cities as part of an effort by mayors on the mainland to share expertise and support in rebuilding the storm-ravaged island.
Hagerty will be joined by Mayors Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans, Christopher Cabaldon of West Sacramento, California, and Jorge Elorza of Providence, Rhode Island.
It has been five months since Hurricane Maria slammed into Puerto Rico. More than half a million people are still without power. Tens of thousands lack drinking water, and tens of thousands more are fleeing, seeking food and shelter in Florida, New York and elsewhere.
Health care services have been hit hard, and the suicide rate is spiking.
Congress included disaster relief funding in the budget deal approved earlier this month, and President Trump on Friday extended additional aid. But the amount falls far short of what the island’s leadership estimates is needed to recover and prepare for future storms. Mayors are stepping in to help.
The Mayor Exchange, is designed to collect local leaders with experience in dealing with disaster recovery on the mainland with their counterparts in Puerto Rico working to rebuild.
Hagerty is the founder of Hagerty Consulting, which provides disaster planning and recovery services to communities.
Landrieu, in a statement, said that when New Orleans has been in need after devastation, “people from all over have helped lift us back up.”
The Mayor Exchange, he added, “allows us and other cities around the country to return the favor.”
Open Society President Gaspard said, “The federal government has let our neighbors languish in darkness, dislocation and despair. We are better than this. I am thrilled to see so many mayors eager to share their knowledge
Hagerty is scheduled Monday to join Mayor Carlos Delgado Altieri in touring Isabela, on the northwest coast, where aid organizations have been helping school children dealing with health challenges brought on by storm-related disruptions in the food supply.
At least nine other mayors from the mainland are scheduled to visit Puerto Rico as part of the exchange program in the coming weeks, including Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.