Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo took a fifth trip for a “NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative” to support ongoing recovery efforts on the island following last year’s devastating hurricanes.
The delegation traveling with the Governor included SUNY and CUNY Presidents and students, nonprofit partners, labor leaders and elected officials. Members of the delegation participated in rebuilding efforts in the Northern and Central regions of the island as well as the San Juan Metro Area and returned in the evening of Tuesday, July 24.
Under the “NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding” Initiative, hundreds of student and labor volunteers have joined non-profit organizations to clean, restore and rebuild homes as the island continues to recover from Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Students from a number of CUNY Colleges departed to spend up to a two week period helping the rebuilding effort. This is the 6th trip by CUNY Students chaperoned by Nestor Melendez of the Guttman Campus, as well as President of Hostos College David Gomez who was on board. Gomez has family who were a the center of the hurricane and he is thankful that they are “doing fairly well”. He wants to thank the Governor and all those who are volunteering to help because “the recovery is slow and painful”.
According to a defiant Cuomo, “Mother Nature brought Hurricane Maria to the island, but it’s Father Trump who aggravated the damage and continues the damage,” “I believe it was despicable that the federal government did not do a better job in their response. Despicable and insensitive.
These are American citizens and there are no second class citizens in the United States of America and they deserve a first class response because they are first class American citizens and they didn’t get it. So why are New Yorkers still working in Puerto Rico? Because Puerto Rico still needs help and because the federal government is not doing its job.”
As with Puerto Rico’s other rebuilding efforts, New York State is committed to helping Puerto Rico rebuild their agriculture and food supply systems stronger than before. Governor Cuomo will launch a comprehensive, targeted effort to work with local farmers, the University of Puerto Rico and other partners to assess immediate needs, provide technical assistance for short-term solutions and develop a strategic plan to bolster the agricultural industry, support food security and grow the Puerto Rico’s economy. As part of this initiative, the Governor will convene a team of experts, led by Commissioner Ball, that will meet with partners at SOMOS.
These actions will focus on: increased trade and exchange of food and agricultural commodities between Puerto Rico and New York, co-ventures in food innovation, food security for underserved populations and exploring the development of food banks and collaboration on best practices in food and beverage safety, as well as, standards and technical guidance for food safety.
During the trip the Governor and delegation participated in rebuilding efforts led by nonprofit partners All Hands & Hearts, Heart 9/11, NECHAMA in Playita, Guaynabo, Orocovis, Barranquitas, and Toa Baja. One delegate, Santos Rodriguez, of the Greater NY Building & Construction Trades Council carried his working hard hat in preparation for getting his hands dirty in the effort.
During the first phase of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative launched on April 29, the Governor deployed a Tactical Assessment Team of state experts and labor, non-profit, philanthropic, and academic partners to evaluate reconstruction needs and to develop a comprehensive rebuilding road map for communities in need. The Assessment Team’s findings are guiding the strategic deployment of approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students, as well as skilled workers from the building and construction trades, throughout the summer.
Since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico four times and has continuously directed critical resources to communities in need. In the immediate aftermath, New York established the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort, ultimately distributing at least 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 donations sites across the state. New York State also deployed more than 1,000 personnel, including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with power restoration and grid stabilization.
Governor Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation continue to advocate for Puerto Rico to get the federal aid they need and deserve. In December, Governors Cuomo and Rosselló, and members of the New York Congressional Delegation released a Build Back Better Assessment Report that called for a $94.4 billion federal aid package to help Puerto Rico build back stronger. The plan identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion.