Gov. Phil Murphy (D) signed an executive order this afternoon creating a commission dedicated to providing relief in Puerto Rico at the Puerto Rican Association for Community Organization (PACO) in Jersey City.
“These have been real trying times for Puerto Rico. They’ve been trying times for all of us because we have been trying to help Puerto Rico for the longest [time],” said U.S. Rep. Albio Sires (D-8).
“And just today, an incident that a fire of one of the generators, one third of the island is out of power, already one third of the island has no power so you can imagine what they’re going through.”
An explosion and fire at an electric substation put a significant portion of northern Puerto Rico into a blackout late last night (h/t CBS News), five months after Hurricane Maria produced the longest blackout in the commonwealth’s history.
“I want to acknowledge the fact that we as a community came together, and on September 30th, at congresa boriqua, had their convention – in Newark – and there are people of words and there are people of action,” began Hudson County Clerk E. Junior Maldonado.
“The former governor, who shall remain nameless, for eight years talked a good talk but didn’t walk the walk. Our governor that day, when he was just a candidate, came to that event, pledged his cooperation and followed through on that.”
In October, Maldonado was one of several Puerto Rican community leaders who helped raise $30,000 for their home country via a relief concert.
Murphy, who visited Puerto Rico with his wife, Tammy, and members of the state Assembly in December, said it was a “direct imperative” for the Garden State to get involved with Puerto Rico’s relief.
“Beyond our basic humanity, there is a direct imperative for New Jersey to be part of Puerto Rico’s healing process. Over half a million New Jerseyans are of Puerto Rican descent, the third largest Puerto Rican community in the United States,” the governor said.
“Moreover, in the weeks and months since Hurricane Maria, approximately – my guess is this number is low balling it – 30,000 or more Puerto Rican residents have relocated to New Jersey while the island rebuilds. These are our fellow Americans and these are our fellow New Jerseyans.”
The commission will assist with coordinating efforts with state agencies and non-profit groups, how utility companies can assist power restoration and to see if state institutions can help provide work and education to Puerto Rican professors and teachers that have been impacted, Murphy explained.
He also said that the commission is currently slated to run for just three months and Rev. Joshua Rodriguez, a senior pastor at the Cityline Church in Jersey City, will serve as the chair of the commission.
Other dignitaries in attendance included state Senators Teresa Ruiz (D-9), Sandra Cunningham (D-31) and Nellie Pou (D-35), Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz, Weehawken Mayor Richard Turner, Bayonne Councilman-at-Large Juan Perez, Hoboken 4th Ward Councilman Ruben Ramos, Jersey City Freeholder Joel Torres (D-4), among many others.
Murphy’s full remarks, which were streamed live on our Facebook page, can be viewed below: