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Thursday, January 16, 2020

Governor Cuomo Announces Deployment of 115 National Guard to Puerto Rico to Assist with Earthquake Response

January 14, 2020--Kennedy Airport--Governor Andrew M. Cuomo, accompanied by his daughter Michaela Kennedy-Cuomo, leads a delegation of elected officials and members of the New York State Guard on a trip to Puerto Rico to assess damage and provide assistance following several recent earthquakes on the island. (Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Tuesday January 14, authorized the deployment of 115 National Guard to Puerto Rico during the next 90 days to assist in emergency response efforts following a series of earthquakes that impacted the island. The Governor departed for Puerto Rico with a delegation that includes NYPA President & CEO Gil Quiniones, Greater NY Hospital Association President Kenneth Raske, Assembly Member Marcos Crespo, Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr, Terry Bischoff from Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico, members of the Red Cross, Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa and Budget Director Robert Mujica. The Governor will also be accompanied by his daughter, Michaela Kennedy Cuomo; her expenses are being paid for personally. 

The Governor and members of the delegation will tour areas impacted by the earthquakes and assess damage in Guánica, Ponce and at the Costa Sur Power Plant to determine additional state assets that need to be deployed to the Island, as well as meet with Puerto Rico residents impacted by the earthquakes at a shelter housed at a local high school.

"Puerto Rico is still hurting from the destruction caused by Hurricane Maria and the federal government's protracted recovery over two years ago, and now the island is once again being dealt a devastating blow with a series of earthquakes and tremors that has caused widespread damage and power outages, leaving thousands of families in shelters," Governor Cuomo said. "From day one New York has been a tremendous supporter of the recovery efforts in Puerto Rico, and we will continue to stand shoulder to shoulder with the island during these challenging times. New York State will deploy National Guard to assist in emergency response efforts, and I will be traveling with a delegation to assess the damage and determine what more we can do to help."

(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)

The New York Air National Guard's 105th Airlift Wing, based at Stewart Air National Guard Base in Newburgh, will be sending a Disaster Relief Bed-down System, known as a DRBS, at the request Puerto Rican emergency management officials. The DRBS system consists of air conditioned tents which can house 16 to 20 people each. The DRBS includes shower and latrine facilities, kitchen and self-help laundry machines, water purification capabilities and generators. Each DRBS can support 150 people. The wing will also dispatch 26 Air National Guard specialists who will set up the DRBS facility in southern Puerto Rico. A total of 15 Airmen will remain on site for up to 90 days to run the facility. 

Additionally, New York State will provide 800 blankets, 800 pillows and 500 emergency preparedness packs that include emergency first aid kits, radios, gloves and masks for Puerto Rico residents.

The Governor's delegation includes:
  • Michaela Kennedy Cuomo
  • Gil Quiniones, NYPA President and CEO
  • Kenneth Raske, Greater New York Hospital Association President
  • Assembly Member Marcos Crespo
  • Assembly Member Maritza Davila
  • Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr.
  • Terry Bischoff, Foundation for a Better Puerto Rico
  • Dario J Diaz Jr, Regional Chief Disaster Officer, Greater NY Red Cross
  • Lee Feliciano, Regional Executive Director of the American Red Cross of Puerto Rico
  • Melissa DeRosa, Secretary to the Governor
  • Robert Mujica, State Budget Director

Gil Quinones, NYPA President and CEO. (Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)
Since Hurricane Maria's landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo 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 donation 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.

Under the Governor's leadership, New York State has dedicated approximately $13 million to support the more than 11,000 displaced Hurricane Maria victims living in New York. Part of this funding is being directed to organizations who connect vulnerable Puerto Ricans to needed services such as employment, housing, benefits counseling and health care. Governor Cuomo has also committed up to $11 million dollars in housing and workforce funding for displaced Puerto Ricans: a $1 million program to provide robust case management services to displaced Puerto Ricans, and up to $10 million in job training and placement.

NYPA is presently offering continued consultation on a wide-range of issues relating to the rebuilding of Puerto Rico's grid, focusing specifically on these areas: technical assistance and advocacy, reforming management and operations, and strengthening emergency preparedness. Between the months of November 2017 and April 2018, more than 450 New York State utility personnel, led by NYPA, went to Puerto Rico to help restore power. The New York State utility crews, under NYPA's leadership, consisted primarily of transmission and distribution experts, damage assessors and general support staff, who undertook repairs to transmission lines and other electric infrastructure work focusing its initial power restoration efforts in San Juan. They brought with them hundreds of bucket trucks, diggers, excavators and other specialized equipment to complete the necessary repairs to damaged transmission and distribution lines and worked 16-hour days, seven days-a-week to help restore power. The NYS utility workers then joined with utility workers from around the country—led by the Edison Electric Institute, the American Public Power Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association—to help restore power to other areas of the island.

(Photo: Kevin P. Coughlin/Office of Governor Andrew M. Cuomo)
Governor Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation continue to advocate for Puerto Rico to receive essential federal assistance. In 2017, Governor Cuomo along with members of the New York Congressional Delegation and with Puerto Rican elected officials issued a Build Back Better Assessment Report. The report identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, and agriculture, among others.

After the 2018 summer, Governor Cuomo announced the successful completion of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. Throughout the summer, more than 650 SUNY and CUNY students, as well as skilled labor volunteers, traveled to island communities still recovering from Hurricanes Maria and Irma to provide assistance to those in need. Over the course of five deployments, volunteers logged in nearly 41,000 hours cleaning, restoring, and rebuilding homes. The goal to renovate 150 homes was far exceeded, with a total of 178 homes restored over 10 weeks. The Governor has continued deployments of SUNY and CUNY students to aid in the recovery efforts throughout summer 2019.

Under the direction of Governor Cuomo, SUNY's and CUNY's respective Board of Trustees passed resolutions in the fall of 2017 authorizing campuses to provide students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands impacted by hurricanes Maria and Irma with the ability to pay tuition at the in-state rate for the 2017-2018 academic year. Both systems renewed the granting of in-state tuition for the 2018-2019 academic year.

For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico please visit the Governor's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage.

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