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Puerto Rico badly needs hurricane aid package, Cuomo says

Cuomo joined Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello in Manhattan to press Congress for $94 billion in storm aid.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a briefing with Gov.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at a briefing with Gov. Ricardo Rossello of Puerto Rico and the New York congressional delegation in New York on Dec. 11, 2017. Photo Credit: Officer of the Governor

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo and Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rossello urged Congress Monday to pass a $94.4 billion hurricane recovery package aimed at rebuilding the island’s battered infrastructure.

“Puerto Rico’s at a fork in the road,” Cuomo said at a news conference with Rossello in midtown Manhattan. “We will look back at this time 10 years from now, and if we do it right, we will rebuild a new Puerto Rico. If we do it wrong, it will be years and years and years before Puerto Rico recovers.”

More than $17 billion of the proposed funding would be used to revive and modernize the island’s decimated power grid, according to a 108-report Rossello’s office released Monday.

The report was compiled by Rossello’s administration in consultation with Cuomo’s Office of Storm Recovery, the financial consulting firm Deloitte and philanthropic groups including the Ford Foundation and The Rockefeller Foundation.

Rosello said the island of more than 3 million U.S. citizens was looking for “fair” and “equitable” treatment on par with what other U.S. states receive from the Federal Emergency Management Agency when hit by natural disasters.

“We’re not asking more, we’re not asking less than other states, we’re asking the same treatment that Texas would have gotten or that Florida would have gotten, or California, or the Virgin Islands,” said Rosello.

Cuomo and New York Democratic House members including Reps. Nita Lowey and Nydia Valazquez said relief efforts by Republican President Donald Trump have been slow-moving and insufficient, and noted that swathes of the island still are without power.

“The situation in Puerto Rico is devastating and the way it has been handled is an embarrassment for this nation,” said Cuomo.

The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday. On Saturday, FEMA officials announced the agency had spent more than $1 billion on recovery efforts in Puerto Rico since Hurricanes Irma and Maria hit in September.

The money includes more than $259 million in housing assistance to rent, repair or rebuild residences and more than $470 million to municipalities for cleanup efforts and to provide emergency generators for hospitals and other critical buildings.

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