More Than 650 SUNY and CUNY Students and Volunteers Dedicated Nearly 41,000 Hours to Clean, Restore and Rebuild Homes with Non-Profit Partners
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the successful completion of the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative with the return of the final deployment of students and volunteers. 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 nearly one year after landfall. Over the course of five deployments, volunteers logged in nearly 41,000 hours to clean, restore, and rebuild homes. The goal to renovate 150 homes was far exceeded, with a total of 178 homes restored over 10 weeks.
"Nearly one year ago, Hurricane Maria upended the lives of U.S. citizens across Puerto Rico, yet to this day, Washington has ignored their desperate needs and pleas for federal assistance," Governor Cuomo said. "As the final deployment of the NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative returns home, this great state has proven once again that we have not forgotten our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and we will continue to support them until it is rebuilt stronger and more resilient than ever before."
"As part of this initiative, hundreds of students and volunteers spent their summer helping families in Puerto Rico rebuild and recover," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "I'm proud of our efforts to assist our brothers and sisters that are still recovering from the natural disaster that devastated their communities. While the federal government turned their back on recovery efforts, New York remains committed to helping our fellow Americans build back better and stronger."
New York State's volunteers worked in tandem with the non-profit rebuilding organizations All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA. Student volunteers were deployed for two weeks and earned college credits. Volunteers with the New York Building and Construction Trades deployed in one to two week waves throughout the summer. UNICEF USA dedicated funding to aid this initiative. Since Hurricane Maria made landfall last September, Governor Cuomo and the state of New York have committed to assisting the island of Puerto Rico until it has been rebuilt and fully recovered.
SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "As we reflect on how New York State has answered the call to help our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico, I want to offer my sincerest thanks to the Governor, our partners in New York and in Puerto Rico, and the SUNY and CUNY student volunteers. While the experience has been life-changing for those involved in the initiative, it is even more so for the people who now have solid roofs over their heads and still others who will benefit from all that was accomplished in Puerto Rico this summer."
Interim CUNY Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said, "The University is extremely proud of the 250 CUNY students, faculty and chaperones who gave their time, their hard work and their hearts to help the people of Puerto Rico with Governor Cuomo's NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative. This was truly a labor of love and service that was not only exceptionally educational and meaningful for these student volunteers. but also served to strengthen the already special connection CUNY has with the island. This opportunity that the Governor made possible exemplifies the University's historic commitment to public service. For two weeks, each of the eight cohorts of student volunteers worked five days a week to raise roofs, remove mold and make other critical repairs to homes devastated by Hurricane Maria. They worked, they gave, they learned and they made a difference."
NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative
The summer-long volunteer service is the culmination of Governor Cuomo's initial vision for his NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative, announced in the beginning of March.
A team of Tactical Assessment experts from across New York State was deployed to the island in April to work on the ground with government leaders and non-profit rebuilding organizations to help guide the rebuilding plan and deployment throughout the summer.
In May, as part of the final groundwork for the summer-long volunteer initiative, Governor Cuomo deployed more than 500 SUNY Maritime College students to Puerto Rico aboard the Training Ship Empire State VI. The cadets participated in volunteer service work to help rebuild homes across Puerto Rico alongside approximately 50 student volunteers from University at Albany and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry. Students worked with local non-profit rebuilding organizations Buena Vibra and Relief4PR in the greater San Juan area.
In July, at the mid-point of the initiative, Governor Cuomo, joined by SUNY Chancellor Johnson and the CUNY Board of Trustees, volunteered with students in Puerto Rico and met with government and non-profit partners to review progress. During the trip, the Governor announced new agricultural trade partnerships between New York and Puerto Rico to help bolster the island's economy as it continues to recover, pledging to help rebuild their agriculture and food supply systems, and work with local farmers, the University of Puerto Rico, and other partners to provide technical assistance and expertise to restore the industry.
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 continues to build on New York State's efforts to aid Puerto Rican families in New York who had to leave their homes after Hurricane Maria devastated the island. The Governor directed the Office of Temporary and Disability Assistance to establish a $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.
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 the spring 2018 semester, approximately 50 displaced students took advantage of the in-state tuition rate at SUNY colleges and 200 displaced students at CUNY colleges.
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.