Tours Current State of Recovery with Governor Rosselló and Highlights the Need for Immediate Funding to Rebuild $94.4 Billion in Damages
Visits and Thanks the 450 New York Utility Workers Assisting with Power Restoration
SAN JUAN, PUERTO RICO — December 2, 2017 — Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today called on the federal government to swiftly approve a robust federal aid package to rebuild the $94.4 billion in damages that the island has incurred following Hurricane Maria. Along with the wealth of resources that New York has directed to the island through the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort and the Mutual Aid process, officials from New York joined with a number of other business and nonprofits in early November to assist the Puerto Rican government in its assessment of the damage. With the assessment now complete, the Governor traveled to Puerto Rico today to tour the current state of the recovery operations with Governor Rosselló and highlight the need for immediate funding and basic fairness from the federal government for all Americans.
A rush transcript of the Governor’s remarks is included below.
Good morning everyone. With me today we have, to my left, Robert Mujica, who is the Director of the New York State Budget Division. We have Colonel Robert Mitchell, who is the Director of the Domestic Operations of the New York National Guard. And to my right, Gil Quiniones, who is the President and CEO of the New York Power Authority and runs all the power operations in the State of New York. All three of these gentlemen have been intimately involved in the Puerto Rico recovery effort that has been going on for 72 days now, believe it or not. New York has been very engaged as you know in the Puerto Rico recovery effort, and we’re very proud of that.
The crisis in Puerto Rico goes on. Hurricane Maria and Irma were 72 days ago, it also hit Texas and Florida. Texas and Florida are in many ways back up and running, and in many ways the psyche of this country has past the hurricanes. A lot has happened in the past 72 days. But it’s very important to remember that in Puerto Rico, the pain, the suffering, still goes on today. One-third of the people of Puerto Rico still don’t have power. Most of the homes in Puerto Rico you still have to boil the water before you use it. There is still 1,000 people in shelters in Puerto Rico. And hundreds of thousands of people have left the island, possibly never to return. And in Puerto Rico, if we don’t get the reconstruction underway in a committed fashion, the damage to the economy can be lasting. And with the number of people leaving the island, if it’s not rebuilt quickly they may never come back. And if we’re not careful and if we’re not diligent, this will go down in the history books as an incident that changed the trajectory of the future of Puerto Rico.
I am very proud of the way New Yorkers have responded. They like to talk about how tough New Yorkers are. What they leave out in that story is how loving and compassionate and giving New Yorkers are. The Puerto Rican community is very much a part of the New York family. And that is exactly how New Yorkers responded here and reacted. They reacted as if a family member was in trouble. The outpouring of support from all across the state has been phenomenal and exceeded my wildest expectations. We still are sending down 500 pallets of goods to Puerto Rico every week. We’ve sent down over 3,400 palettes of donated goods, vital goods for the people of Puerto Rico. Water, canned food, products that one would need in their home. It really has been extraordinary. Governmentally, over 700 people have been deployed to Puerto Rico from New York. We’ve sent doctors, we’ve sent healthcare personnel. We have about 500 people on the island now who are helping restore the power. One of the main reasons the power has come back is because of the assistance they’ve received from the power crews from New York. And that’s why Gil Quiniones and the Power Authority has been coordinating that. But if you go to the Puerto Rico today you will see Con Ed trucks the way you’ll see Con Ed trucks in Manhattan, you’ll see Con Ed trucks in San Juan. And literally 500 personnel are still down there. Many are working 4 week shifts. So New Yorkers went down to be away from their family for a month to help out, which is really heroic and extraordinary. The National Guard has been deployed to Puerto Rico, State Police have been deployed to Puerto Rico, as I mentioned, medical personnel.
In my opinion, the federal government should be ashamed of itself and the way they’ve handled this. Puerto Rico has not gotten the care and the attention that they deserve. The people of Puerto Rico are American citizens. They were not treated that way. The people of Puerto Rico have been treated as second class citizens by the federal government. I resent it as a New Yorker, I resent it as an American, and the federal government should be ashamed of itself. There is a plan to now rebuild Puerto Rico that we helped the island put together, called the Build Back Better Plan. It’s a $94 billion plan to repair the damages of Puerto Rico. The federal government needs to pass that plan as part of the supplemental appropriation that helps Texas and helps Florida. We need to help Puerto Rico the same way because they are the same as the people in Texas and in Florida, they’re American citizens. Congress is not active on that recovery plan for Puerto Rico, which is also a shame.
In my opinion, the Congress should show the same commitment they showed to pass their tax plan, they should show that same commitment and energy to passing the plan to help Puerto Rico. Last night in the middle of the night, the Senate passed the tax plan. They’re in a tremendous rush to give the rich people of this country a tax break. They’re in a tremendous rush to give the rich corporations a tax break. They should have half that energy when it comes to helping the people of Puerto Rico who are suffering day in and day out.
Their priorities are upside down. They are committed to passing help the rich people tax act. They should be as committed to helping the desperate of Puerto Rico recovery act. They literally have their priorities upside down.
We’re going to visit Puerto Rico today, we’re going to thank the workers who are there and doing their best to help Puerto Rico. I want to discuss with the Governor the progress they’re making congressionally and see how we can help to get that federal plan passed, and to take a tour to see the actual state of the recovery, and how else New Yorkers can help. As I said, New Yorkers are willing to go above and beyond, and we just want to make sure we’re doing everything we can to be helpful.
SOURCE: New York State, Executive Chamber, Press Office.