Following a bipartisan trip to Puerto Rico, U.S. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand is calling on Congress to develop a blueprint for rebuilding the island ravaged by two hurricanes last month.
Gillibrand, D-N.Y., said Sunday that she supports a "Marshall-style plan" to help Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes Irma and Maria, which left a vast majority of the territory's 3.5 million residents without power and a significant portion of the population without access to drinking water.
The Marshall Plan was a multi-billion dollar aid package that supported the reconstruction of western Europe after World War II.
It's unknown how much Puerto Rico would need to rebuild after the hurricanes. Business and homes were destroyed in the storms. There is also significant damage to the island's infrastructure.
"It truly is an urgent crisis and I believe that Congress needs to look at Puerto Rico holistically and decide how best to fund its rebuilding," Gillibrand said.
Gillibrand was part of a bipartisan congressional delegation that traveled to Puerto Rico over the weekend. Two other Democrats — U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Tim Kaine of Virginia — and Republican Sens. Cory Gardner of Colorado and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin joined Gillibrand on the trip.
The group met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello, who told them that it's one of the greatest disasters to ever hit the island because of the strength of the hurricanes.
Rossello, Gillibrand said, is concerned about Puerto Rico's future after the hurricanes. Many residents lost their homes, food is in short supply and without electricity, businesses can't reopen.
While a large aid package will likely take time, one area the senators agreed could be addressed is rebuilding Puerto Rico's electric grid. Restoring electricity is a high priority, but officials say it's important to make the grid more resilient to withstand major storms.
"That's something we can come together around," Gillibrand said.
The senators praised first responders and volunteers who have helped in the aftermath of the storms. Gillibrand noted that many of those providing assistance are from New York.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed National Guard troops and engineers from the New York Power Authority to assist with restoring the power grid. Volunteers, including doctors and nurses, have offered their services. The state's medical community also donated supplies to help Puerto Rican hospitals.
"We have more than a million Puerto Ricans in New York state and so many of them care deeply about Puerto Rico's recovery," Gillibrand said. "This has become something that's very important to me."