New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy is creating a commission of 18 professionals to accelerate federal aid to Puerto Ricans both state resident and the thousands continuing to struggle on the island.
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"It is unacceptable that five months after Hurricane Maria passed through Puerto Rico, so many Americans continue to suffer the ravages of the storm,” the Democratic governor said during an event Monday.
Over half a million current state residents are of Puerto Rican descent, the governor explained, and at least 30,000 moved after Hurricanes Maria and Irma destroyed their homes last September. State agencies will coordinate with the commission for the next three months to expedite aid to the displaced Puerto Ricans.
"The federal response, I think, measured in every dimension has been wanting: Bodies, timing, money, vision, sensitivity, the implication that these folks are not American," Murphy said.
"This is the time for us to step up. It is time for us to show our humanity and our connection not just with fellow Americans, but with an island whose culture and beauty is alive and well here in New Jersey," Murphy said.
“We cannot let our fellow Americans down. This is what we do as New Jerseyans and I am proud to take this step today,” Murphy said during a press conference Monday at the Jersey City’s Puertorriqueños Asociados For Community Organization.
The initiative will be lead by Pastor Joshua Rodriguez from the City Line Church in Jersey City, although two other commission members will be appointed by Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rossello.
Amendments for a US$16 billion disaster aid for Puerto Rico was confirmed last week by U.S President Donald Trump in the national budget. Though this falls short of the petitioned amount, Murphy reassured that his state can shoulder the remained of expenditures.
"We can’t put Puerto Rico on our backs, but we can have their backs. I hope in one small way this well step us in that direction," he said.
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"Governor Murphy and the State of New Jersey have been great allies in the recovery process of Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria. We will work hand in hand with the commission to make sure it is successful in its mission," Rossello said, thanking his Jersey counterpart.
Also on Monday, the mayor of the island town, Cataño, announced that his region had regained 100 percent of its electricity. Cataño is the third municipality to have its services restored since the twin hurricanes tore through the island. However, an unexpected electric substation explosion left parts of northern Puerto Rico without electricity Sunday. The fire was shortly after extinguished, but the explosion disabled two other substations.
Now, more than 400,000 power customers remain without electricity. Sunday’s explosion increased this number, but authorities managed to restore energy in most of the affected parts.