Groups Offer Aid As Puerto Rico Faces Crisis After Hurricane Maria

After two historic hurricanes hit the U.S. territory in the past month, both large and small associations have pledged support in the form of financial aid, supplies, and assistance bringing power back to the island.

“This is a game changer. We need to prevent a humanitarian crisis occurring in America.”

Speaking Monday to CNN, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló gave that blunt assessment of the enormous challenge facing the U.S. territory after it was slammed by Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria in close succession over the past three weeks. The island’s ongoing financial crisis has worsened the impact of the two devastating storms.

Beyond federal agencies, a variety of associations have heeded the call for help, offering various types of aid, including:

Bringing back power. The New York Power Authority, with the support of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, and the U.S. Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council (ESCC), is working to help return power to Puerto Rico. The effort includes deploying drones to assess damage in hard-to-reach locations.

“New York is home to more Puerto Ricans than any other state in the country, and our hearts break for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters as they begin to rebuild after the unimaginable devastation of Hurricane Maria,” Cuomo said in a statement.

ESCC, which helps coordinate public and private responses to infrastructure issues, includes officials from a number of U.S. trade organizations, including the American Public Power Association, Edison Electric Institute, the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, and a number of federal agencies. In comments to the International Business Times, APPA spokesman Mike Hyland said power would not be restored anytime soon.

Launching a fund. In tandem with a coalition of supporting groups, the Hispanic Federation last week announced it would manage both a hurricane relief fund for Puerto Rico and a separate, $50,000 fund for victims of the earthquake near Mexico City.

“The devastation caused by Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico is unprecedented in the island’s modern history,” Hispanic Federation President José Calderón said in a news release. “As the island struggles to recover from multiple disasters, including a long-term economic crisis and the damage wrought by Hurricane Irma just a few weeks ago, Hurricane Maria’s destructive forces has deepened the suffering of the Puerto Rican people beyond comprehension. Yet throughout all of this, the Puerto Rican community throughout the United States is joining hands with the island and saying ¡Presente!”

Gathering supplies. Help is coming from the local level as well. The Puerto Rican Professional Association of Rhode Island helped to organize a donation drive. Belen Florez, the group’s vice president, described the pain of seeing the devastation on the island. “I’m not the only one. A lot of Puerto Ricans that live here, a lot of residents from Providence, are going through the same thing. A lot of Puerto Ricans are coming up to us, the organization, letting us know that they haven’t heard from family,” Florez told TurnTo10.

These campaigns build on other efforts, such as that of the Diabetes Emergency Relief Coalition, which has worked throughout the hurricane season to support people with diabetes in emergency situations.

Puerto Rico National Guard soldiers offer aid in Toa Baja, PR. (The National Guard/Flickr)

Ernie Smith

By Ernie Smith

Ernie Smith is a former senior editor for Associations Now. MORE

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