Former President Bill Clinton is advocating for the growth of local grassroots nonprofits in the aftermaths of devastating storms.
Clinton said the U.S. territories like Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands cannot wait for the federal government aid to come in.
Groups like Love City Strong have said there was a lag time in response from the federal government of seven days after Hurricane Irma in 2017.
Clinton weighed in on the response from the current administration after two category five storms hit the US Virgin Islands and Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.
“I think it was wrong to delay for example the federal aid to Puerto Rico for food assistance. That was approved by an all Republican congress before the 2018 election and I think it is wrong to overstate the help they’ve gotten,” Clinton said.
He convened a meeting of his Clinton Foundation Clinton Global Initiative Action Network to fill in the gaps and build the Caribbean stronger in the face of future storms.
Clinton said, “we’re here because I think it is also important to realize that some things haven’t changed. Some people are still eligible for FEMA aid and they’re going to get it. Some people are still eligible to get help with housing from the Department of Housing and Urban Development. They’ll be some economic development funds coming. So, the real question is whatever you have or don’t, what are you doing to make the most of it?
Clinton added that the statehood debate comes into play when recovering from a natural disaster.
“I think that dealing with this is a combination of trying to say to the national government the Virgin Islands are part of the United States, Puerto Rico is part of the United States but it is also part of dealing with our neighbors in the Caribbean. Including Dominica that is a true, global, and environmental treasure and trying to get all the work together.”
Clinton said the best solution is the local community organizations that are working at the grassroots level to get things done and bringing them together on private/public partnerships. A model Love City Strong in St. John and Bloomberg Response have been utilizing.
“What works best, from the government to the private sector, the non-governmental organizations and grassroots citizens work together and figure out practical responses like this. No one ever talks about when you see the breathtaking television coverage of what a hurricane can do. Well, how long are they going to take to get back into their houses and it is always the hardest problem. It always takes the longest. These people have figured out how to make it happen quicker. And so, I think all the rest of us should advocate whatever we think needs to be done by governments but should not wait to put together things that actually work to help people to build a better future.”