Congressman José E. Serrano

Representing the 15th District of New York

Congressman Serrano Writes to FEMA Expressing Outrage Over Removal of Key Puerto Rico Data from Agency’s Website

Oct 6, 2017
Press Release

Washington, DC – In response to news reports that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) removed from its website key data on Puerto Rico’s access to potable water and electricity post Hurricane Maria, Congressman Jose E. Serrano sent a letter today to the agency’s Administration to express his outrage on behalf of Puerto Rico and ask for clarification on the sudden removal of this information:

“[T]hese actions give the appearance that the agency is attempting to ‘spin’ information in a way that helps the White House, rather than shedding light on serious concerns about the pace of relief and recovery.  It removes focus from the essential jobs that your many employees are performing, and instead focuses on unnecessary process issues.  It is important that you explain to the American people why these changes occurred.  Additionally, we ask that you clarify for us whether the decision to remove this information came from within FEMA, or whether anyone employed at or connected with the White House requested that these statistics be taken down,” wrote Congressman Serrano in his letter.

October 6, 2017

The Honorable William B. ‘Brock’ Long

Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency

500 C Street SW
Washington, D.C. 20472

Dear Administrator Long,

We write to express outrage over the decision to remove key metrics from your website regarding the progress of relief and recovery in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria.  In particular, we are troubled that information was removed regarding access to drinking water and electricity.

The removal of these statistics raises serious concerns about transparency and accountability at FEMA, its partner agencies, and the Administration as a whole.  This information is critical in assessing progress and understanding needs on the island.  While Congress is still receiving this data, it should be available to the public at large- in particular to those individuals who have family on the island.  That way, they can make decisions about what assistance to send, or whether to help evacuate their families to the 50 states.

Unfortunately, these actions give the appearance that the agency is attempting to ‘spin’ information in a way that helps the White House, rather than shedding light on serious concerns about the pace of relief and recovery.  It removes focus from the essential jobs that your many employees are performing, and instead focuses on unnecessary process issues.  It is important that you explain to the American people why these changes occurred.  Additionally, we ask that you clarify for us whether the decision to remove this information came from within FEMA, or whether anyone employed at or connected with the White House requested that these statistics be taken down.

We urge you to immediately restore all information- including information on clean water access and electrical access- that was available prior to October 5, 2017.

Sincerely,

###

Congressman José E. Serrano has represented The Bronx in Congress since 1990.  He is a Senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.