Photo courtesy of Congresswoman Grace Meng's office
Congresswoman Grace Meng (right) and fellow Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (left) met with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz (center) during their visit to Puerto Rico.

After seeing the devastation from Hurricanes Maria and Irma in person last week, Queens Congresswoman Grace Meng is taking her efforts to bring renewed attention to Puerto Rico’s recovery a step further.

She’s attending President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night at the Capitol, and Meng’s guest at the event will be Omar Miguel Nieves Delgado, a Puerto Rican man who was displaced by the hurricanes and is currently living in Queens.

Meng spent two days in Puerto Rico on Jan. 25 and 26, assessing the damage and returned to the mainland with a new understanding of how much help the locals still need.

“We cannot forget our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands who are still suffering acutely from the damage caused by Hurricanes Maria and Irma,” Meng said in a statement. “I am proud to amplify Omar’s story of resilience, and I hope his attendance at the State of the Union will remind the president, and my congressional colleagues, of our obligation to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.”

Delgado, 33, was living in San Juan when Hurricane Maria struck and severely damaged his home. He is a dancer and lost his source of income due to the widespread destruction. Ten days after the storm, he and his partner boarded a ship with a carry-on bag and relocated to Queens to live with Delgado’s close friend.

“It has been more than four months since Hurricane Maria struck, and our family, friends and hundreds of thousands of other Americans in Puerto Rico are still dealing with no power, closed businesses and the consequences of losing any opportunity for a bright future,” Delgado said in a statement. “The job is still not done and we feel as if we have been forgotten.”

Meng is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, the committee responsible for funding all federal agencies, programs and projects within the United States, and she had a packed schedule to assess all of the island’s needs.

At the FEMA Joint Field Office, Meng received infrastructure and hurricane response-recovery briefings from FEMA and the Department of Health and Human Services officials, including former FDNY officials Don Boyce, Michael Byrne and Thomas Von Essen. Meng also went to HealthproMed, a primary care center that offers services primarily to people who live at or below 200 percent of the federal poverty level. She paid a visit to Hospital Centro Medico as well, the island’s largest public hospital.

Meng discussed the recovery efforts with San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz when they met at the site where relief supplies are stored, many of which have been donated by New Yorkers. Meng then visited an elementary school to speak to students and teachers about education needs, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention lab to assess the disease prevention response.

When the short trip was over, Meng said that the funding Puerto Rico has received for its recovery has been “woefully inadequate,” and added that in her capacity in the House Appropriations Committee she will “continue to do all I can to ensure that our fellow Americans receive the aid they need.”


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