In September 2017, Hurricane Maria made direct landfall on the island of Puerto Rico as a Category 4 storm with winds clocking in at 150 mph. Today, most of its residents still don't have electricity, 50 percent of all cell towers remain down, and some 1 million residents do not have safe drinking water. This year’s hurricane season has been especially devastating to the U.S. territory beginning with Irma—a Category 5 storm that passed just north of the island but still managed to do some damage. By the time Maria hit, infrastructure in certain regions was already weakened and thousands of people were already without electricity.
Most of us need not be reminded that Puerto Rico is entitled to the same aid from the federal government as any other state in the nation. Yet, just a few weeks after federal emergency workers landed on the island, Donald Trump was threatening to call those workers back to the mainland, tweeting “We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders who have been amazing (under the most difficult of circumstances) in P.R. forever!” Maria made landfall on September 20, Trump posted that tweet on October 12.
Meanwhile, though, corporate leaders have taken a quite different attitude. A growing list corporate funders are stepping in to help fill the gaping holes left by this administration’s response to the ongoing humanitarian disaster in Puerto Rico.
As we’ve often reported, the UPS Foundation is one of the world’s leading corporate funders when it comes to humanitarian relief and response efforts around the world. For instance, shortly after Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico, UPS Airlines flew two of its Browntail air freighters onto the island delivering Meals Ready to Eat (MREs). UPS also partnered with New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort to transport supplies including pallets of water, emergency supply kits containing water purification tablets, water buckets, soap, toothpaste, and other basic supplies.
Other corporate funders such as Western Union and FedEx are particularly adept at navigating the murky logistics of aid delivery in the wake of natural disasters and are no strangers to delivering humanitarian aid swiftly and efficiently.
Western Union is mobilizing cash to be held by its local agents until such time when people can begin sending and receiving financial wire transfers. “Activating money flows,” said Western Union’s CEO, Hikmet Ersek, “is the first step to giving our customers greater control over their livelihoods, well-being, and dignity.” The Western Union Foundation has also pledged $110,000 total to the American Red Cross to support relief efforts and the organization itself. The foundation is also offering a 2:1 employee contribution match, up to $50,000.
Joining the list of corporations that are mobilizing to help regions devastated by recent natural disasters is FedEx, which like UPS can tap a fast logistics infrastructure to provide assistance.
Earlier this year, the announced that it would invest $200 million in over 200 global communities by the year 2020 through a new program called FedEx Cares. The company made $50 million is immediately available for disaster preparedness and relief efforts. In the wake of recent natural disasters, FedEx has dedicated a total of $3 million to relief efforts in the United States, the Caribbean, and Mexico. In weeks following Hurricane Maria, FedEx has been running at least two flights a day to Puerto Rico, moving 1,000 tons of relief supplies so far. FedEx also partnered with the Astros Foundation—the philanthropic arm of the Houston Astros—to deliver 240,000 pounds of water, clothing, and diapers to Puerto Rico.
Here’s a breakdown of some of the other corporations dedicating major dollars to help the devastated island nation recover and rebuild. The list is not comprehensive and some of the funders on it may have since increased their commitment further.
Walmart committed $5 million in support of immediate and long-term relief efforts on the island such as delivering critical supplies including medical supplies and emergency equipment such as generators.
The Amgen Foundation—best known for its support of STEM education—pledged $3 million toward immediate relief efforts in Puerto Rico as well as an additional $2 million for long-term rebuilding efforts. The foundation is also activating its Staff Disaster Relief fund to help Amgen staff in Puerto Rico.
Kaiser Permanente donated $1 million to the CDC Foundation to “provide immediate public health support in Puerto Rico.” The funds are reportedly going to support relief, recovery, public health infrastructure rebuilding, and long-term emergency preparedness activities.
Facebook pledged to match up to $1 million in donations received by Save the Children to help the people affected by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. Support is being distributed to organizations working in the Southeastern United States and the Caribbean.
Major League Baseball
Major League Baseball (MLB) contributed $1 million to communities affected by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico and the Earthquake in Mexico. MLB's funding is focused on immediate relief and long-term rebuilding efforts through a variety of organizations, including Habitat for Humanity, Project C.U.R.E., the U.S. Fund for UNICEF and others that will be named later.
Collaborating with the American Red Cross and World Vision, Verizon has pledged $1 million in support toward relief efforts. Verizon is also offering a dollar-for-dollar employee donation match to “select hurricane relief-focused organizations.”
JP Morgan Chase
The global banking committed $500,000 to local community organizations such as the Boys and Girls Club and the Community Foundation of Puerto Rico. Chase also announced a dollar-for-dollar employee donation match in support of Puerto Rico and other U.S. Territories hit by the hurricanes.
Google matched employee donations up to $250,000 for a total commitment of $500,000 toward relief efforts. Google’s parent company, Alphabet, also recently announced that it received approval from the Federal Communications Commission to use solar-powered balloons to help restore cell phone services in Puerto Rico and across the British Virgin Islands.