Governor Cuomo Announces First Deployment of Students and Volunteers as Part of New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative

June 17, 2018

zFrom the office of Governor Cuomo

Approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY Students and Nearly 20 Skilled Labor Volunteers to Clean, Restore, and Rebuild Homes with Non-Profit Partners

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced 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 will embed with non-profit organizations to clean, restore, and rebuild homes, prioritizing the repair and replacement of roofs where possible. Approximately 100 SUNY and CUNY volunteers and nearly 20 skilled labor volunteers are deploying to the island today.

"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," Governor Cuomo said. "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."

New York State's volunteers will work side by side with the non-profit rebuilding organizations All Hands and Hearts, Heart 9/11, and NECHAMA. Student volunteers will deploy for two weeks and earn college credits. Volunteers with the New York Building and Construction Trades will deploy in one to two week waves throughout the summer. UNICEF USA has committed funding to support this effort.

The deployment follows the first phase of the initiative launched on April 29, in which the Governor deployed a Tactical Assessment Team to develop a comprehensive rebuilding plan for the island. The Assessment Team's findings are guiding the deployment of approximately 500 SUNY and CUNY students, as well as skilled workers from the building and construction trades, throughout the summer.

In a related effort led by SUNY Maritime in late May, more than 500 SUNY Maritime College cadets and approximately 50 students from University at Albany and SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry volunteered with local non-profit rebuilding organizations, removing debris and preparing roofs for construction in the greater San Juan area. The three day program laid the foundation for the summer-long NY Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative.

SUNY Chancellor Kristina M. Johnson said, "Once Governor Cuomo put the Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative into place, SUNY administration, faculty, and staff across the system were eager to prepare for our student volunteers to join this initiative. The partnership with the Governor's and CUNY's teams has come to fruition today and I am excited about the work that will be achieved on the island. My best wishes to all of those in this initial launch."

Interim Chancellor Vita C. Rabinowitz said, "We are tremendously proud of the many students who have volunteered to make an impact on the lives of our fellow citizens in Puerto Rico. Through the work they will do this summer, these students are setting high standards for all of us as caring global citizens. We are grateful to the faculty and staff who gave of their time to ensure that our students have a rich and meaningful experience, and to Governor Cuomo for launching the New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative."

New York's Efforts in Puerto Rico

Since Hurricane Maria's landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico four 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.

In response to the recently released Harvard School of Public Health's analysis estimating that the death toll of Hurricane Maria could be 70 times higher than the current official estimate, Governor Cuomo joined Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez's demand for a commission to immediately investigate the federal response, death toll and any negligence or failure to appropriately respond, as well as disaster preparedness, response and recovery. Congresswoman Velázquez is preparing legislation to establish the Commission.

Governor Cuomo and the New York Congressional Delegation continue to advocate for Puerto Rico to get the federal aid they need and deserve. In December, Governors Cuomo and Rosselló, and members of the New York Congressional Delegation released a Build Back Better Assessment Report that called for a $94.4 billion federal aid package to help Puerto Rico build back stronger. The plan identified specific sectors needing investments, including housing, power grid and resiliency, agriculture and others. Together with $487 million for public safety and first response and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion.

This month, the Governor announced that the SUNY Board of Trustees would be extending in-state tuition for students displaced by Hurricanes Maria and Irma. The extension of the authorization will allow students from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands to attend stated-operated colleges for the 2018-2019 academic year at a lower cost to ease the burden as their families recover from the devastation following these natural disasters. Approximately 35 students applied to SUNY under the in-state tuition policy in the fall 2017 academic term and fifty students did so in spring 2018.

For more information about the recovery and relief efforts underway in Puerto Rico, and to learn how you can assist, please visit the Governor's Empire State Relief and Recovery Effort for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands webpage

About the State University of New York
The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of higher education in the United States, with 64 college and university campuses located within 30 miles of every home, school, and business in the state. As of Fall 2017, more than 430,000 students were enrolled in a degree program at a SUNY campus. In total, SUNY served nearly 1.4 million students in credit-bearing courses and programs, continuing education, and community outreach programs in the 2016-17 academic year. SUNY students and faculty across the state make significant contributions to research and discovery, resulting in $1 billion of externally sponsored activity each year. There are 3 million SUNY alumni worldwide, and one in three New Yorkers with a college degree is a SUNY alum. To learn more about how SUNY creates opportunity, visit

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Holly Liapis
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