Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the second major deployment of volunteers to Puerto Rico as part of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. Over the course of the summer, New York will mobilize more than 500 SUNY and CUNY student volunteers, as well as dozens of skilled labor volunteers, to assist with recovery and rebuilding efforts. Volunteers will join non-profit organizations to clean, restore, and rebuild homes, prioritizing the repair and replacement of roofs where possible. Approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY volunteers and nearly a dozen skilled labor volunteers are deploying to the island this weekend.
"While Washington continues to ignore the needs of Puerto Rico, New York will stand with our brothers and sisters who are still suffering to this day," Governor Cuomo said. "With this second deployment of volunteers and hundreds more to come, we are furthering our commitment to rebuilding the island and ensuring the people of Puerto Rico know that they have not been forgotten."
"The people of Puerto Rico continue to suffer at the hands of a callous and incompetent federal government,"said Lieutenant Governor KathyHochul. "While Washington continues to ignore the needs of the island, our state government is leading once again to help our families, friends, and fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. We care about the lives that have been devastated, and the families who have lost everything. Our unprecedented focus with assisting the rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico continues with this latest deployment of volunteers. Our unwavering commitment will continue for as long as it takes to rebuild and recover."
New York State's volunteers will work side by side with the non-profit rebuilding organizations All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA. Student volunteers will deploy for two weeks and earn college credits. Volunteers with the New York Building and Construction Trades will deploy in one to two week waves throughout the summer. UNICEF USA has committed funding to support this effort.
The deployment follows the second phase of the initiative launched on April 29, in which the Governor deployed a Tactical Assessment Team to develop a comprehensive rebuilding plan for the island. The Assessment Team's findings are guiding the deployment of approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students, as well as skilled workers from the building and construction trades, throughout the summer. On June 17th, approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY volunteers and nearly 20 skilled labor volunteers traveled to the island in the first major deployment of volunteers.
SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "SUNY is proud to be part of the Governor's initiative, and to continue working with the people of Puerto Rico to help them rebuild and recover. This also provides our students with a valuable opportunity to learn and to serve."
Interim CUNY Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said, "We could not be prouder of the many students who volunteered to make a difference in the lives of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Through their restoration efforts, these students are setting a high standard for all caring, global citizens. We thank the faculty and staff who are giving their time to ensure a full and meaningful experience for our students, and we are grateful to Governor Cuomo for launching the New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative."
New York's Efforts to Support Puerto Rico
Yesterday, Governor Cuomo announced new actions to assist Puerto Rican families in New York who were forced to flee their homes after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. With federal rental assistance set to expiring on June 30, the Governor directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to establish a new $1 million program to provide robust case management services to displaced Puerto Ricans, and directed the Department of Labor to provide up to $10 million in job training and placement. Additionally, the Governor has called on the federal government to extend the Transitional Sheltering Assistance Program and to immediately activate the Disaster Housing Assistance Program to ensure access to affordable housing.
Last month, the Governor announced that the SUNY Board of Trustees and CUNY Board of Trustees would be extending in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The extension of the authorization will allow students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend stated-operated colleges for the 2018-2019 academic year at a lower cost to ease the burden as their families recover from the devastation following these natural disasters. In the spring 2018 semester, approximately fifty displaces students took advantage of the in-state tuition rate at SUNY colleges and 200 displaced students at CUNY colleges.
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.
In response to the recently released Harvard School of Public Health's analysis estimating that the death toll of Hurricane Maria could be 70 times higher than the current official estimate, Governor Cuomo joined Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez's demand for a commission to immediately investigate the federal response, death toll and any negligence or failure to appropriately respond, as well as disaster preparedness, response and recovery.
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, Governor Cuomo and Governor Rosselló, along with 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.
For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico, and to learn how you can assist, please visit the Governor's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage.