San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulin Cruz speaks to media after meeting with the House Democratic Caucus on Capitol Hill on Wednesday. About 70% of Puerto Rico remains without power in what is now the longest blackout in U.S. History. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo
Nov. 1 (UPI) -- San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz said Puerto Ricans are living in a "life-or-death situation" Wednesday, after Congress canceled a hearing in which she was supposed to testify about the effects of Hurricane Maria.
Cruz said she learned the House Committee on Homeland Security hearing was canceled shortly after she arrived in Washington, D.C.
"I am here to say what I was going to say at that hearing that they seemed not to want hear," she said. "Mr. [Donald] Trump, do you job. Lives are at stake. This is not about politics. This is not about your ego. This is about the people of Puerto Rico and the people of the U.S. [Virgin Islands]."
She continued her criticisms of Trump and the federal government. In the days after the hurricane decimated portions of the island, she gave an impassioned speech, saying Puerto Ricans were being killed "with the inefficiency and the bureaucracy."
Things are no less dire now, she said Wednesday.
"The Trump administration can't handle the truth," Cruz said. "Survival cannot be our new way of life.
"The situation is still a life-or-death situation."
She called on the federal government to exempt Puerto Rico from the Jones Act, which allows only U.S. ships and U.S. crews to handle shipping to U.S. ports. Critics of the law say it's impeding some aid from reaching the island in a timely manner.
Cruz also called for energy and healthcare reform.
White House spokeswoman Helen Aguirre Ferré said the administration was working "earnestly" with Puerto Rico on recovery efforts.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency "was on the island prior to Hurricanes Irma and Maria, during the storms and remains still with 16,500 men and women providing critical humanitarian supplies and support not only to the governor and mayors, but most importantly, to the people of Puerto Rico who are our main concern," Ferré said.
Nearly six weeks after Hurricane Maria hit, 70 percent of the island was without power.
Puerto Rico's electric authority initially signed a $300 million contract with a small Montana firm, Whitefish Energy, to restore power on the island. Officials canceled the contract after it drew criticism from lawmakers for going to a small, 2-year-old firm from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's hometown.
Meanwhile, about 18 percent of households in Puerto Rico are without working water taps, leading some people to consume potentially hazardous water.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday said water drawn from wells at the Dorado Groundwater Contamination Site -- part of the federal government's superfund program -- met drinking water standards.