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EDITORIAL: For effective disaster relief, turn to the private sector



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When political leadership fails, private citizens must be willing to step up. 

Given the Trump administration’s disappointing and damaging mishandling of Hurricane Maria disaster relief, the Editorial Board would like to commend Tesla for its donation of solar panels to restore electricity to San Juan’s Hospital del Niño. 

The solar panel donation is not the only way Tesla is providing support to Puerto Rico. CEO Elon Musk tweeted that some of the company’s production is being rerouted in order to “increase battery production for Puerto Rico and other affected areas.” 

While we will concede that the disaster relief process can be complicated, the Editorial Board still firmly believes the decision to begin that process and help people in need should not be. 

The panels will allow the hospital to operate at full capacity, which will make a huge difference to the 3,000 children who are patients – 30 of whom suffer from chronic conditions that require constant care. 

One month after it was decimated by Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico remains in dire shape. 

Seventy percent of the island is still without power six weeks after the storm. Puerto Ricans who can to apply for assistance from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are therefore unable to complete their applications online or learn about the status of their applications by phone. 

What the public might not have expected, however, was the response from President Trump to San Juan Mayor Carmen Yulín Cruz’s requests for aid for her constituents. 

Tweeting about her “poor leadership ability” and claiming that Puerto Ricans “want everything to be done for them,” Trump’s response was far from presidential, and his assessment of the disaster relief efforts at the time was grossly incompatible with the actual experiences of Puerto Ricans. 

While Trump golfed and lashed out at Mayor Cruz, the island of Puerto Rico was practically destroyed and 51 people were killed by the hurricane. 

In fact, that death toll may actually be higher, depending on data interpretation. Deaths from storm-related injuries will be included in the official count, but hospital patients affected by power outages might not be. 

Although hospital deaths of this kind might be considered indirect effects of natural disasters, the Editorial Board feels such deaths should be treated with more urgent concern. 

In a move that at once provides humanitarian aid and promotes environmental sustainability, Tesla sets an excellent example of how the private sector can step in when government services fail. 

And, as Tesla proves, well-organized efforts from private companies can sometimes overcome barriers that inhibit government-funded aid. The Editorial Board urges the private sector to follow Tesla’s lead and contribute to the relief efforts Puerto Rico still desperately needs. 

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