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Governor Will Lead Effort to Help the More Than 11,000 Displaced Puerto Ricans Are Living in New York

Governor Cuomo: “We’re going to work with Puerto Rican families and sue the President of the United States because New York is standing with Puerto Rico the way we said we would.”

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that New York will lead the effort for displaced Puerto Ricans in New York – with the latest count exceeding 11,000 people – to file a lawsuit against President Donald Trump and the federal government for failing to adequately respond and provide assistance following Hurricane Maria.

“President Trump never tried to help Puerto Rico. Florida got attention, Texas got attention, and Puerto Rico got the short end of the stick. That is not just wrong and unethical and despicable, it is also illegal,” Governor Cuomo said. “We’re going to work with Puerto Rican families and sue the President of the United States because New York is standing with Puerto Rico the way we said we would. We are going to fight back and we’re going to show this President that the law is the law.”

“The federal government turned its back on our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico and failed to help them rebuild and recover,” said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. “In New York we’re proud to provide resources and assistance to those impacted by Hurricane Maria, and we will continue to help displaced families. This lawsuit is the next step in holding President Trump and the federal government accountable for their inaction and making sure Puerto Ricans are able to fully recover.”

Last week a report indicated that the facts show more than 3,000 people died in aftermath of the hurricane, making this one of the deadliest disasters in U.S. history, and showing again the federal government’s inability to provide the assistance Puerto Rico needed in the wake of the disaster.

The Governor announced a commitment to lead the effort to file a lawsuit against the federal government due to the obvious discrepancies in federal response to and treatment of citizens impacted by Hurricane Harvey, which primarily hit Texas, and Hurricane Maria, which devastated Puerto Rico and other areas. The disparities include:


  • A three week wait: It took at least three weeks for federal helicopters – critical for saving victims and delivering emergency supplies – to fly above Puerto Rico, contrasting with the 73 U.S. Northern Command helicopters that few over Houston within six days of Hurricane Harvey.
  • Lack of funding: Nine days after the hurricanes, FEMA had approved $141.8 million in individual assistance to Harvey victims, versus just $6.2 million for Maria victims.
  • Lack of food and water: During the first nine days after Harvey, FEMA provided 5.1 million meals, 4.5 million liters of water and over 20,000 tarps to Houston. In that same period, FEMA delivered just 1.6 million meals, 2.8 million liters of water and roughly 5,000 tarps to Puerto Rico.
  • Sparse resources: Nine days after Harvey, the federal government had 30,000 emergency and response personnel in the Houston region, compared with 10,000 at the same point after Maria. Additionally, it took just 10 days for FEMA to approve permanent disaster work for Texas, compared with 43 days for Puerto Rico.
  • Unacceptable relief: Seventy-eight days after each hurricane, FEMA had approved 39 percent of federal applications for relief from victims of Harvey, versus just 28 percent for Maria.

The announcement follows a number of efforts the Governor has spearheaded to show New York’s support of the island’s recovery, including the completion of the summer-long, New York Stands with Puerto Rico Recovery and Rebuilding Initiative on August 25. More than 650 SUNY and CUNY students and volunteers returned after logging nearly 41,000 hours of work cleaning, restoring and rebuilding homes on the island. The Governor’s commitment to helping Puerto Ricans sue the federal government also builds on New York’s most recent investment to connect Puerto Rican families to employment, housing and health care services, including Health Home Care Managers and community-based services. This investment adds to the $11 million commitment the Governor made to support housing and workforce development for displaced Puerto Ricans.

New York State Assembly Member and Chair of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic Task Force Marcos A. Crespo said, “The disparities between Washington’s response to Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria are shameful. From day one, the people of Puerto Rico have been ignored, too many lives have been lost and not enough assistance has been delivered to the island. Action must be taken to hold the Trump administration responsible and there is no better champion than Governor Cuomo to fight for our Puerto Rican brothers and sisters for the recognition and assistance they have long deserved.”

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz Jr. said, “Despite President Trump and our elected leaders in Washington turning their backs on Puerto Rico, Governor Cuomo has continuously filled the void and is once again standing up for the thousands of Puerto Ricans whose lives have been torn apart by Hurricane Maria. The island’s residents and the thousands of displaced Puerto Ricans in New York are owed the same amount of respect as the rest of our fellow American citizens, and today’s announcement marks an important step to ensure our brothers and sisters receive the assistance and respect they deserve. I want to thank the Governor for his tireless advocacy for the Puerto Rican community.”

New York City Council Member Carlina Rivera said, “The federal government’s response to Hurricane Maria has been nothing short of disgraceful. Puerto Ricans have been disregarded and treated as second class citizens, and 3.5 million Americans have been left to deal with the storm-ravaged island on their own. I applaud Governor Cuomo’s continued efforts to help Puerto Rico recover and for holding President Trump and the federal government responsible. The families here in New York deserve assistance and support as they work to rebuild their lives in the wake of this devastation and we as a state will support.”

New York’s Efforts in Puerto Rico

Since Hurricane Maria’s landfall in September 2017, Governor Cuomo has traveled to Puerto Rico five times, including the most recent trip in late July. The Governor announced new agricultural trade partnerships between New York and Puerto Rico to strengthen both the island’s economy and the ties between the two communities as Puerto Rico continues to recover and rebuild.

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 also deployed more than 1,000 personnel, including hundreds of utility workers and power experts to help with power restoration and grid stabilization.

In December, Governor Cuomo 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.