Schumer calls on Trump to appoint official to oversee Puerto Rico relief

WASHINGTON, Oct 22 (Reuters) - Charles Schumer, the top Democrat in the U.S. Senate, called on President Donald Trump on Sunday to name a single official to oversee and coordinate relief efforts in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico.

Schumer, along with Representatives Nydia Velàzquez and Jose Serrano, said a "CEO of response and recovery" is needed to manage the complex and ongoing federal response in the territory, where millions of Americans remain without power and supplies.

In a statement, Schumer said the current federal response to Hurricane Maria's impact on the island had been "disorganized, slow-footed and mismanaged."

"This person will have the ability to bring all the federal agencies together, cut red tape on the public and private side, help turn the lights back on, get clean water flowing and help bring about recovery for millions of Americans who have gone too long in some of the worst conditions," he said.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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Searching for water in Puerto Rico
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Searching for water in Puerto Rico
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
Madelyn Matos washes her hair as her boyfriend Jan Marcos Chaparro cleans his car with mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A man carries a case of water away from an HH-60 Blackhawk helicopter after soldiers working with 101st Airborne Division's "Dustoff" unit dropped off relief supplies during recovery efforts following Hurricane Maria, in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, October 5, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson SEARCH "JACKSON TIRADO" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Madelyn Matos (L) and her boyfriend Jan Marcos Chaparro do their laundry with mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
A family waits as a man fills drums with potable water brought to their small mountain community once a day after Hurricane Maria crippled utilities near Guayama, Puerto Rico October 12, 2017. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
People collect mountain spring water, after Hurricane Maria hit the island, in Corozal, Puerto Rico October 17, 2017. REUTERS/Alvin Baez
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The Democrats contended that naming a lone individual to manage the government's relief efforts was critical, particularly given that the Federal Emergency Management Agency is already stretched thin from dealing with other crises, such as the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey in Texas and the wildfires in California.

The severity of the Puerto Rico crisis, where a million people do not have clean water and millions are without power nearly a month after Hurricane Maria made landfall, demand a single person to focus exclusively on relief and recovery, the Democrats said.

Forty-nine people have died in Puerto Rico officially, with dozens more missing. The hurricane did extensive damage to the island’s power grid, destroying homes, roads and other vital infrastructure. Now, the bankrupt territory is struggling to provide basic services like running water, and pay its bills.

"It’s tragically clear this Administration was caught flat footed when Maria hit Puerto Rico," said Velàzquez. "Appointing a CEO of Response and Recovery will, at last, put one person with authority in charge to manage the response and ensure we are finally getting the people of Puerto Rico the aid they need.”

On Thursday, Trump said the federal response has been a "10" on a scale of one to 10 at a meeting with Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello.

The governor has asked the White House and Congress for at least $4.6 billion in block grants and other types of funding.

Senator Marco Rubio called on Congress to modify an $18.7 billion aid package for areas damaged by a recent swath of hurricanes to ensure that Puerto Rico can quickly access the funds.

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Melania Trump lands in Puerto Rico
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Melania Trump lands in Puerto Rico
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump step off Air Force One upon arrival at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 03: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One at the Muniz Air National Guard Base for a visit after Hurricane Maria hit the island on October 3, 2017 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The President has been criticized by some that say the government� response has been inadequate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump arrive at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / HECTOR RETAMAL (Photo credit should read HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP/Getty Images)
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 03: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump arrive on Air Force One at the Muniz Air National Guard Base for a visit after Hurricane Maria hit the island on October 3, 2017 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The President has been criticized by some that say the government� response has been inadequate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend a meeting with Governor Ricardo Rossello (unseen) and other officials after stepping off Air Force One upon arrival at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump attend a meeting with Governor Ricardo Rossello (L)and other officials after stepping off Air Force One upon arrival at Luis Mu�z Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 03: President Donald Trump and Melania Trump greet U.S Air Force airmen as he arrives at the Muniz Air National Guard Base as he makes a visit after Hurricane Maria hit the island on October 3, 2017 in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The President has been criticized by some that say the government's response has been inadequate. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit residents affected by Hurricane in Guaynabo, west of San Juan, Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
CAROLINA, PUERTO RICO - OCTOBER 03: President Donald Trump and the First Lady Melania Trump arrive Muniz Air National Guard Base in Carolina, Puerto Rico on Oct. 3, 2017, almost two weeks after hurricane Maria hit the island. They meet with residents there to greet the President. (Carolyn Cole/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump meet with US Virgin Islands Governor Kenneth Mapp (unseen) in the Ward Room aboard the USS Kearsarge, off Puerto Rico on October 3, 2017. Nearly two weeks after Hurricane Maria thrashed through the US territory, much of the islands remains short of food and without access to power or drinking water. / AFP PHOTO / MANDEL NGAN (Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)
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