Things That Matter

Trump Refuses To Release Vital Aid To Puerto Rico In Wake Of Damaging Earthquakes

Over three dozen Democratic lawmakers have demanded Housing Secretary Ben Carson explain why the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) department is breaking the law to withhold $8.3 billion in aid from Puerto Rico. 

Representative Nydia Valesquez led the charge in writing a letter signed by 41 Democrats to Carson on Monday, suggesting that the Trump administration has no real justification for withholding the hurricane readiness assistance. 

HUD was supposed to disburse $9.7 billion to the commonwealth beginning last September but has since only given $1.5 billion of the allocated funds, according to the New York Daily News. 

HUD says Puerto Rico won’t be getting their due funds anytime soon.

The nearly ten billion dollars in funds were allocated by congress to improve Puerto Rico’s natural disaster readiness in the aftermath of the 2017 hurricanes that killed roughly 3,000 people. The funds proved to be necessary when multiple earthquakes ranging from 4.1 to 6.4 in magnitude that left thousands without power. 

“We have repeatedly implored Secretary Carson to follow the law, do right by Puerto Rico and release the assistance our fellow citizens are legally due,” Velazquez told the Daily News.

HUD claims they are denying release of the funds due to corruption they cited no evidence of and failed to specify. The executive branch cannot legally withhold congressionally approved funds. 

“Given the Puerto Rican government’s history of financial mismanagement, corruption and other abuses, we must ensure that any HUD assistance provided helps those on the island who need it the most: the people of Puerto Rico,” the senior agency official told the Daily News. “Puerto Rico already has access to $1.5 billion and has so far only spent $5.8 million — less than 1% of those funds.” 

Democrats ban together to demand the release of the remaining funds to Puerto Rico. 

“Due to the new emergency at hand and the urgency of the situation, we are officially requesting an in-person meeting,” the Democrats wrote in the letter to Carson. “It is your responsibility as secretary of HUD to provide members of Congress an explanation as to why your department has chosen to violate the law by withholding these critical resources. Puerto Ricans have waited too long.”

Velazquez, who grew up in Puerto Rico, even wrote a separate letter to Carson, who has responded to neither effort. This isn’t the first time Democrats have led a charge against the Trump administration regarding funds to Puerto Rico. Just last week House Speaker Nancy Pelosi demanded the release of the aid which was approved for housing development, infrastructure needs, and economic revitalization.

“We call upon the White House to stop its unlawful withholding of funds from Puerto Rico,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said at a press conference last week. “There are needs that need to be met, there has been a disaster designated, but the ongoing withholding of funds appropriated by Congress to Puerto Rico is illegal.”

Velasquez told the Daily News that the Trump administration’s constant withholding of aide has a more sinister motivation. 

“The real motivation for withholding these dollars is Donald Trump’s disdain for the people of Puerto Rico and heartless disregard for their suffering,” Velazquez said

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said he plans on leading a delegation to Puerto Rico this week to assess whether New York State can send additional disaster recovery. 

The Washington Post editorial board releases the op-ed “Puerto Ricans should never forget how Trump treated them.”

“Here’s what Puerto Rico has endured over the past two years: a devastating hurricane that killed and displaced thousands of people and plunged the island into months of darkness; an incompetent and corrupt local government; a bungled and halfhearted emergency response from the federal government,” the editorial board wrote. “Now, even as hurricane recovery remains incomplete, a new natural disaster: a 6.4-magnitude earthquake followed by powerful aftershocks.”

The earthquakes displaced 2,000 people without power, left nearly the entire island without electricity, and roughly 250,000 people without water. Trump approved $5 million in FEMA aid following the declaration of a state of emergency but the number pales in comparison to what Puerto Rico is owed. The Washington Post noted a study that showed the federal government responded more quickly and effectively to hurricanes in Texas and Florida — where Trump has a large deal of support — in comparison to hurricanes in Puerto Rico. 

Puerto Rico is owed an estimate of $18 billion in total congressionally approved recovery aide. 

“As opposed to erecting hurdles to recovery, the administration should be clearing a path, righting past wrongs and delivering the support our fellow American citizens so clearly need,” Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said

Among the letter to Carson’s signees were Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Congressman Joaquin Castro, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Senator Cory Booker, Senator Bernie Sanders, and other party members.

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Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

Entertainment

Who Is Mari Pepin? Everything You Need to Know About the Puerto Rican Beauty Queen and ‘The Bachelor’ Frontrunner

As you probably know by now, a new season of the never-ending reality series “The Bachelor” has just started.

And this season is destined to be especially exciting–not just because of the promise of non-stop drama, but because the franchise has finally hired its first Black male lead, Matt James, after 18 years on the air.

And with the first Black “Bachelor” comes the most diverse group of contestants competing for the lead’s heart that they’ve ever had.

And one of the contestants that is capturing the hearts of both fans and Matt James alike is 24-year-old Puerto Rican-born pageant queen Mariela “Mari” Pepin.

On this season’s premiere episode of “The Bachelor”, Mari was immediately clocked by viewers as one of the front runners by the way that Matt reacted to meeting her. The former Wake Forest wide receiver was struck speechless by her beauty and couldn’t keep his eyes off her when she parted ways with him. It was obvious that Mari had made quite the first impression on him.

And because we love to see #representation on screen (and especially on reality TV), we decided to do our due diligence and find out as much as we could about this gorgeous and accomplished Latina. Here’s everything you need to know about Mari Pepin.

She’s Boricua–and proud of it!

Something that immediately endeared Mari to fans was the fact that she is so vocally proud of being Puerto Rican. In her first sit-down conversation with Matt, she opened up about how hard its been for her family to live through the relentless natural disasters that the island is going through.

She’s a military brat.

According to Mari’s personal blog, she spent the first few years of her life in PR before relocating to Germany because of her father’s military career. According to Mari, her unique childhood contributed to her love of traveling as an adult.

She was 2019’s Miss Maryland USA.

According to Mari’s official “Bachelor” bio, she began competing in pageants when she moved to Maryland as a teenager. She won Miss Teen Maryland and then went on to win the title of Miss Maryland. After that, she placed in the Top 10 of the Miss USA competition.

She’s wicked smart.

According to Mari’s LinkedIn page, she has a Bachelor’s degree in Communications from Towson University and she’s currently pursuing a Master’s degree in Marketing Intelligence from the same institution. It’s safe to say she values education.

She’s multilingual.

Not only does Mari speak both Spanish and English flawlessly, but she’s also fluent in French and American Sign Language.

Based on all this info alone, we can’t wait to see Mari Pepin crush this season of “The Bachelor”. Hopefully, this Boricua beauty will be popping up a lot on our screens for years to come!

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Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Entertainment

Bad Bunny Talks Depression And Says Sometimes He Still Feels Like The Boy Who Bagged Groceries Back Home

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

Bad Bunny is on top of the world. Or, at least, that’s how it appears to all of us on the outside enjoying his record-breaking year. Not only did he release three albums in 2020 but he also landed his debut acting role in the Netflix series Narcos: Mexico and from his Instagram stories, he seems to be in a happy, contentful relationship.

But like so many others, Bad Bunny has his experience with mental health issues, of which he recently opened up about in an interview with El País.

Bad Bunny recently spoke up about his struggle with depression.

Despite his immense success that’s catapulted him to, arguably, the world’s biggest superstar, Bad Bunny admits that sometimes he still feels like the young man who bagged groceries in a supermarket.

The reggaetonero revealed in an interview with El País that right as his career really started to take off, he was not happy. “You asked me before how I hadn’t gone crazy. Well, I think that was the moment that was going to determine if I was going to go crazy or not. From 2016 to 2018 I disappeared, I was stuck in a capsule, without knowing anything. The world saw me, but I was missing,” he said.

Although no doctor diagnosed him, he is sure of what was happening. it only did he feel lost and empty but he had stopped doing many of the things that brought him joy, like watching movies and boxing. Without realizing it, he had also fallen out of contact with much of his family, with whom he was typically very close.

“And that’s when I said: who am I? What’s going on?” he told El País. When he returned home to Puerto Rico from spending time in Argentina, he was able to get back into the right state of mind and remember who he was.

Despite his success, Bad Bunny still worries he’s in financial trouble.

Although today, he is the number one Latin artist on Spotify and the awards for his music keep coming, there are times when Bad Bunny still thinks that he has financial problems.

“Not long ago, I was 100% clear in my head what I have achieved, maybe a year or six months ago; but until then, many times I forgot, I felt that I was the kid from the supermarket. He would happen something and say: “Hell!” And then: “Ah, no, wait, if I have here,” he said, touching his pocket.

Much like Bad Bunny, J Balvin has also been candid about his own mental health struggles.

Bad Bunny is just the most recent to speak to the emotional havoc he experiences despite being a global superstar. And, thankfully, like many other celebrities, he’s been able to find refuge in a reality that allows him to keep his feet on the ground so that he too can enjoy the achievements of his career.

Much like El Conejo, J Balvin is known for the brightness of his style and mentality. But he’s long addressed the importance of caring for one’s mental health. During his Arcoíris Tour, he encouraged people to not be ashamed of seeking professional help, and let the audience know they are not alone.   

“Las enfermedades de salud mental son una realidad. Yo he sufrido de depresión y he sufrido de ansiedad, así que tengo que aceptarlo. Y eso me hace más humano, me hace entender que la vida tiene pruebas,” Balvin said. “Pero si alguien está pasando una situación difícil, no están solos, siempre llega la luz. Tarde o temprano llega la luz.”  

“Mental health illnesses are a reality. I have suffered from depression and anxiety, so I have to accept it. And this makes me more human. It makes me understand that life has challenges,” Balvin said in Spanish. “But if someone is going through a difficult time, they are not alone, light always comes. Sooner or later, the light comes.”  

We need more men like Benito and J Balvin to speak up about their mental health struggles, to help destroy the stigma that exists within our community.

And in the same interview, he also spoke about why he works to elevate the Spanish language.

As for the possibility of singing in English, the answer remains the same: a resounding no.

“You have to break this view that the gringos are Gods…No, papi,” he told El País. And, although he’s collaborated with artists like Drake, Cardi B and Jennifer Lopez, he has always sang in Spanish and with his famous accent.

“I am very proud to reach the level where we are speaking in Spanish, and not only in Spanish, but in the Spanish that we speak in Puerto Rico. Without changing the accent,” he said.

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