Building Back Together to release new, six-figure ad buy addressing Biden’s recovery efforts in Puerto Rico
As Puerto Ricans recovered from Hurricane Fiona’s landfall, the Biden admin. planned a stop before heading to Florida, a message the group hopes to reaffirm.
A new commercial will make its way through the Pennsylvania and Florida airwaves on Friday, Oct. 21, which seeks to reinforce the Biden administration’s involvement in Puerto Rico’s recovery, following his visit to Ponce, a municipality on the southernmost region of the island.
“We want to make sure that Latinos, in this case, Puerto Ricans, hear directly from us [about] the ways in which this administration is delivering on promises made,” said Mayra Macías, Chief Strategy Officer at Building Back Together.
The ad features Biden’s message, delivered to a Puerto Rican audience overlooking a shipping port. “Puerto Rico is a strong place and Puerto Ricans are a strong people,” Biden’s message echoes over images of Fiona’s aftermath.
“Through these disasters, somehow, the people of Puerto Rico keep getting back up with resilience and determination, and you deserve every bit of help your country can give you,” the message continued.
Fiona lashed through the island on the eve of Hurricane Maria’s fifth anniversary, leaving a familiar scene for residents. Mass flooding, battered powerlines, and no electricity for months on end, and families reliving many of the challenges faced when María initially destroyed the central power grid.
Biden’s Puerto Rico touchdown evoked memories of former president Donald Trump’s visit after María dealt unprecedented, destructive infrastructure damage. But Trump’s stay left a jarring image of the president, in a briefing held in a basketball court-turned makeshift supply center and a paper towel being dunked into a crowd of families who bore the weight of the aftermath.
The Biden administration, in contrast, held his event adjacent to a shipping port where supplies are regularly received. A stark contrast to Trump’s brief foray, Biden then committed a full-fledged government response to cover 100% of federal dollars allocated toward recovery.
“I’m confident we’re going to be able to do all you want, governor,” Biden said at the time to Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi. “We are going to make sure you get every single dollar promised.”
After whispers in Congress regarding Puerto Rico’s ability to sustain funding to address widespread damage, Sen. Chuck Schummer asked FEMA to cover the full cost of restoration. A day later, the administration committed to addressing the financial scale of all recovery efforts.
Puerto Rico’s “government doesn’t have the money to lay it out, and the people are suffering and they are our fellow citizens,” Schumer said upon declaring a major disaster declaration in September, citing the island’s tightly-held budgetary constraints.
BBT, whose work has been centered around driving the agenda’s message through significant spending, will leverage the power of commercial messaging to target Puerto Rican communities in the U.S., a sector that is often put on the stand to speak to the island’s issues by way of their vote.
“We took advantage of this moment to remind folks of the commitment already made (...) but also to underscore the urgency of why we need these investments,” Macías noted.
Pennsylvania — where one of the ads is scheduled to air — deployed two state agents to assess damage on the ground to assess whether the use of PEMA was appropriate, following calls from two Latino state representatives.
In Philadelphia, a multi-nonprofit endeavor was created by the city’s Latino population to spearhead fundraising efforts. According to nonprofit leaders, partnerships were created with local organizations in Puerto Rico to ensure funds would reach the hands of those who most urgently needed them.
Lessons that trailed from previous mismanagement of relief funds after María spurred a movement of a targetted and supervised approach from the Puerto Rican diaspora.
“I think it’s important for the Puerto Rican diaspora to be informed of how the federal government is involved with and supporting relief efforts on the island,” said Julia Rivera, Chief External Affairs Officer at Congreso.
“Ultimately, it is those in the diaspora that have voting power and representation in Congress so they should be aware and equipped with the facts in order to make informed decisions when they go to the polls,” Rivera added.
According to a 2014 study by Center for Puerto Rico, a research institute out of Hunter College, Puerto Ricans are the largest group among the Pennsylvania Latino population overall, accounting for 8.8% of the country’s Puerto Ricans.
Through its plenary powers, Congress ultimately dictates Puerto Rico’s financial outlook as it concerns the federal government, in addition to PROMESA, a financial oversight board imposed by former president Barack Obama to get the island’s finances under control.
Because of a complicated political relationship, Puerto Ricans do not participate in the presidential elections, rendering them powerless in terms of the U.S. executive branch, a dimension that the diaspora carries as citizens who reside on the mainland.
While BBT does not deal in electoral politics, Macías underlined the presence of the diaspora in the states should hear directly about the administration's investment into the island and that “it was critical for us to make sure that we were uplifting the president’s words directly (...) but also that we touched upon the things that have already started being delivered,” she noted of the ad’s focus.