September 20, 2018
Albany, NY

Governor Cuomo Announces Progress in Lawsuit Against President Trump and the Federal Government for Failure to Provide Resources and Relief to Puerto Rico Following Hurricane Maria

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Governor Leading Effort to Help Displaced Puerto Ricans Living in New York

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced New York has partnered with Latino Justice, a national civil rights organization, to identify displaced Puerto Ricans living in New York who have been impacted by the federal government's disgraceful response to Hurricane Maria, which made landfall on this day one year ago. At this time, the state has identified several displaced Puerto Ricans living in New York who will serve as plaintiffs in a suit against President Trump and the federal government for disparate treatment in failing to provide services and resources to the island during this catastrophic event, and this partnership will serve to bolster the state's efforts. Several of these potential plaintiffs attended a memorial event at which the Governor spoke earlier today.

"As we mark the one-year anniversary of one of the deadliest storms to hit the United States, it is as evident now as it was then that the people of Puerto Rico have been all but forgotten by President Trump," Governor Cuomo said. "In this country there are no second-class citizens, yet we witnessed blatant inconsistencies in Washington's response to disasters in Florida and Texas while leaving our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico without even basic necessities. Our federal government must be held responsible for these immoral, disgraceful actions, and with this lawsuit, we will bring justice to those who were wronged and continue to support the people of Puerto Rico until the island is rebuilt and recovered, and more resilient than ever before."

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"We're helping our fellow citizens from Puerto Rico to ensure their recovery and safety in New York following the devastation of Hurricane Maria last year," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul, who attended today's event. "We have partnered with Latino Justice to file a lawsuit against the Trump administration for its egregious lack of recovery efforts following the storm. New York stands with our brothers and sisters to fight back against the lack of aid and protection from the federal government that continues to affect families impacted by the disaster." 

As reports continue to indicate that nearly 3,000 people died in aftermath of the hurricane—making Hurricane Maria one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history—President Trump has politicized the issue, refusing to accept these reports as fact. After calling the federal government's response to Hurricane Maria an "incredible unsung success," it is clear that President Trump is unable or unwilling to recognize the devastation the hurricane left in its wake and provide the assistance necessary to help the island recover.

Earlier this month, the Governor announced a commitment to lead the effort to file a lawsuit against the federal government on the basis of the clear discrepancies in the federal response to and treatment of citizens impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which primarily hit Texas, and Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and other areas. The disparities include:

  • A three week wait: It took at least three weeks for federal helicopters - critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies - to fly above Puerto Rico, contrasting with the 73 U.S. Northern Command helicopters that flew over Houston within six days of Hurricane Harvey.
  • Lack of funding: Nine days after the hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.
  • Lack of food and water: During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston. In that same period, FEMA delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.
  • Sparse resources: Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 emergency and response personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria. Additionally, it took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.
  • Unacceptable relief: Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus just 28 percent for Maria.

Governor Cuomo has dedicated approximately $13 million to support the more than 11,000 displaced Hurricane Maria victims living in New York. As part of the commitment, an initial investment of $2 million will go to partnering 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.

In June, the Governor announced that the SUNY Board of Trustees and CUNY Board of Trustees would extend in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The extension of the authorization allows students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend stated-operated colleges for the 2018-19 academic year at a lower cost to ease the burden as their families recover from the destruction following these natural disasters. In Academic Year 2017-2018, 255 displaced students took advantage of the in-state tuition rate at CUNY colleges. While enrollment data is not yet available across SUNY for Fall 2018, there were 137 undergraduate students enrolled from Puerto Rico displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017-2018 academic year that received in-state tuition rates.

...with this lawsuit, we will bring justice to those who were wronged and continue to support the people of Puerto Rico until the island is rebuilt and recovered, and more resilient than ever before.

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo
Governor Cuomo Makes An Announcement at Hurricane Maria Anniversary

New York State's Ongoing Efforts to Support Puerto Rico

Since Hurricane Maria's landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico five 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 has dedicated approximately $13 million to support the more than 11,000 displaced Hurricane Maria victims living in New York. As part of the commitment, an initial investment of $2 million will go to partnering 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.

Earlier this month, Governor Cuomo announced that New York will lead the effort for displaced Puerto Ricans in New York to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and the federal government for failing to adequately respond and provide assistance following Hurricane Maria.

In June, the Governor announced that the SUNY Board of Trustees and CUNY Board of Trustees would extend in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The extension of the authorization allows students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend stated-operated colleges for the 2018-19 academic year at a lower cost to ease the burden as their families recover from the destruction following these natural disasters. In Academic Year 2017-2018 255 displaced students took advantage of the in-state tuition rate at CUNY colleges. While enrollment data is not yet available across SUNY for Fall 2018, 137 undergraduate students enrolled from Puerto Rico displaced by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017-2018 Academic Year that received in-state tuition rates.

Over the 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.

Governor Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation continue to advocate for Puerto Rico to receive essential federal assistance. In December, Governor Cuomo and Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rosselló, along with members of the New York Congressional Delegation, issued a Build Back Better Assessment Report. The report identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture, and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response aid 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 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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