ALBANY, N.Y. (WENY) – Governor Andrew Cuomo announced on Monday, June 18 the first 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 with work with non-profit organizations to clean, restore and rebuild homes, prioritizing the repair and replacement of roofs where possible.
On Monday, approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY students and nearly 20 skilled labor volunteers deployed to the island.
The non-profits which the volunteers will work with include All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA.
The students will be in Puerto Rico for two weeks and earn college credits. Volunteers with the New York Building and Construction Trades with deploy in one to two weeks waves throughout the summer. UNICEF USA has committed funding to support this effort.
In a related effort, more than 500 SUNY Maritime College cadets and about 50 students from the University at Albany and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry volunteered with local non-profit organizations in late May. They removed debris and prepared roofs for construction in the greater San Juan area in a three-day program.
"From day one, New York has pledged to work hand in hand with the people of Puerto Rico to rebuild the island stronger than ever before," Cuomo said on Monday. "Today, with this first deployment of volunteers, we are staying true to this promise to step up where Washington has taken a step back, and bring hope and support to our American brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico."
Since Hurricane Maria's landfall in September 2017, Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico four times, directing resources to communities in need.
New York also established the Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort, which has distributed approximately 4,400 pallets of supplies collected from 13 donation sites across the state. The state has also deployed more than 1,000 personnel, including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with power restoration and grid stabilization.
The current official estimate of those killed in Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is 67; however, a recently released Harvard School of Public Health's analysis estimates that the true death toll could be 70 times higher.