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NYS sending more relief aid to Puerto Rico

New York State Governor's Office

New York State, home to more than 1 million people of Puerto Rican background, is sending a lot more than thoughts and prayers to the hurricane-ravaged island.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo has organized an aid package including 34,000 bottles of water, more than 10,000 meals ready to eat, 1,400 cots, 16 Humvees and four Black Hawk search-and-rescue helicopters. He said the airline Jet Blue is flying in more supplies and the state has its own ship, the Empire State, that will bring in supplies as well.

The Governor is also sending 100 state troopers and licensed truck drivers employed by the state Department of Transportation to help, with the federal government likely to pick up the tab.

Cuomo is also asking that federal restrictions on shipping be temporarily waived to get needed supplies in faster. It was part of the Governor's continued his criticism of the President, saying Donald Trump is not doing enough and has spent too much time tweeting about the NFL and questioning the patriotism of  players who kneel during the national anthem.  

"There's a debate back and forth on patriotism on football players," Cuomo said."Patriotism to me is being there for Americans when Americans need help and patriotism is doing everything you can for Americans who need help."

However, he said the “situation is not under control.” Cuomo predicted that if relief does not come faster, many Puerto Ricans may relocate, at least temporarily, to New York.

Over 100 New York City firefighters, police officers and other workers are in Puerto Rico to help and Mayor Bill de Blasio also said he is expecting an influx of thousands of Puerto Ricans fleeing the storm's damage.

New York's ties to the U.S. island territory are strong. The state has the nation's biggest Puerto Rican community outside the island itself.

“If they are panicked or they see despair setting in or they think the relief efforts are either wanting or inadequate, then I think you'll see people starting to leave and New York would be a logical location and destination for them," Cuom said, "and if that happens, we'll handle it when it comes."

The President plans to go to Puerto Rico Tuesday.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.