Cuomo: Trump's “inadequate” Puerto Rico response would cause "outrageous uproar" anywhere else
The Trump administration’s emergency response in Puerto Rico after Hurricane María has been “inadequate” and if this had happened in any of the 50 states there would be an “outrageous uproar” among their citizens, Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during his second visit to the island territory after the storm hit.
“What we’ve lost here is the fact that when we’re talking about Puerto Rico, we’re talking about American citizens, and there’s been a different standard that I think has subliminally been imposed,” Cuomo said during a press conference on the island on Thursday.
“No, it’s not okay that it takes you five weeks and people don’t have clean water and people don’t have power, and the power restoration efforts, at this rate, will take months and months, and that would not be acceptable if any of the 50 states went through this,” the governor added. “It wouldn’t even be a question, it would be immediate outrage from everyone.”
Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Sept. 20, and today more than 80 percent of the island is without electricity and 22 percent does not have access to potable water in their homes. Telecommunication services are also recovering slowly.
Cuomo did praise the first responders who came to the island, as well as Puerto Rico’s governor, Ricardo Rosselló. Numerous police officers, teachers, nurses, National Guardsmen and volunteers from New York have come to the island to provide support and help improve the situation as soon as possible.
“The human resources that Governor Cuomo has put at our disposal have been working with the power authority and with other stakeholders to help us get through the emergency as well as to help us rebuild, and we are very thankful for that,” Rosselló said.
Cuomo emphasized that rather than replacing the systems “that needed to be modernized anyway,” Puerto Rico needs to rebuild with resiliency because climate change “is a reality,” and “no one can say that this is not going to happen again.”
“Anyone who doesn’t believe in climate change I think is in a state of denial,” he said. “Either climate change is real or Mother Nature is having a nervous breakdown. Another hurricane may happen again, so things should be done in a way that impacts next time is less.”
As soon as it is possible, Rosselló and his aides will travel to New York to look at some of the new projects the state developed after Superstorm Sandy hit five years ago that were designed to sustain future natural disasters.
The Cuomo administration also announced that $1 million would be spent through the Empire State Clean Water Fund on water filtration systems to help Puerto Ricans who lack access to clean water in the wake of the storm.
As part of his trip, Cuomo also delivered five LiveStraw water-cleaning systems with capabilities of providing clean water to communities, as well as 200 individual filters that will be delivered to communities in need. The administration said it was also delivering more than 27,000 bottles of water on the trip, bringing the total to more than a million bottles of water provided by New York.
The administration is dispatching a 28-member team to help restore the power grid as well as a 15-member accounting team to help with Federal Emergency Management Agency reimbursements. New York Power Authority President and CEO Gil Quiniones, who has already traveled to the island to assess the damage to the power system, joined Cuomo on the trip on Thursday.