Jennifer Lopez calls for Puerto Ricans to be ‘treated equally’ as she, Alex Rodriguez tour for hurricane relief
The power couple spent time with residents and toured a health center.
— -- Jennifer Lopez called for the people of Puerto Rico to be "treated equally" as Americans as she and Alex Rodriguez toured the hurricane-ravaged island to begin allocating some of the $25 million raised last year in a telethon.
"We just want to be treated equally. We're Americans," Lopez said Sunday. "We're here to kind of shine a light and let everybody know, like [Rodriguez] said, 'We're in our first inning. We have a long way to go,'" in helping the U.S. territory recover.
Lopez and Rodriguez's visit comes 109 days after Hurricane Maria devastated the island.
“We had high hopes that, you know, it was going to be further along than it is,” Lopez said. “But there's still a lot of work to be done.”
“It was important for us to follow up and come down here and see with our own eyes,” added Rodriguez, a "Good Morning America" contributor.
Lopez, who was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents, pledged $1 million to Maria relief efforts just days after the Category 4 storm made landfall on the island on Sept. 20.
Puerto Rico was plunged into darkness by Maria, which hit days after Hurricane Irma, and restoration of power has been slow. Authorities there announced last month that only approximately 55 percent of customers able to receive electric power have had their service restored three months after Maria hit.
The Trump administration came under fire after the storms for its perceived slowness in sending help to Puerto Rico. Protesters marched in Washington, D.C., in November to raise awareness and stars like Lin-Manuel Miranda, who also has family in Puerto Rico, joined Lopez in publicizing the island's continuing needs.
Lopez and Rodriguez, who hosted the "One Voice: Somos Live!" telethon in October to raise relief funds, toured Puerto Rico on Sunday with Lopez's sister, ABC News correspondent Lynda Lopez.
The trio visited the home of an elderly Puerto Rico resident who still has no power, no front door and a blue tarp on his roof. The man was overcome with emotion when he learned that some of the relief money from the telethon will be used to help fix his roof.
"You do what you can do and you hope it's going to help," Jennifer Lopez said.
Rodriguez recalled Jennifer Lopez crying upon learning of the devastation in Puerto Rico after the storm.
"I would wake up or she would be crying looking at social media," he said. "I mean one thing is to raise money. The other thing is to actually fly down here, feel the warmth of the people, see the beauty of this island."
Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez joined in the announcement of $2 million in aid for federally-qualified community health centers as they visited a health center in Loíza, a small municipality near San Juan.
After meeting with local residents, Jennifer Lopez said she will leave the island with more hope for Puerto's Rico recovery.
"I feel hopeful," she said. "I feel that they gave me hope."
"I could have been there, but I wanted to be here and chose to be here," Jennifer Lopez said. "I want you to know I'm dressed in black too even though I'm far away in Puerto Rico."
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