October 26, 2017 04:23 PM
ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) - New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo headed back to Puerto Rico on Thursday for the second time since the U.S. territory was walloped by Hurricane Maria.
The Democrat said he wants to assess the recovery and find out how the state can best help as Puerto Ricans struggle with power outages and shortages more than a month after the destructive storm. Cuomo departed New York on a donated Delta flight and was expected back in the state in the evening.
He also announced the state would send 28 utility experts to assist in restoring electrical power and 15 accountants to help residents file federal recovery assistance applications. Cuomo said the state also would pledge $1 million in clean water funds to help pay for water filtration systems.
Cuomo criticized the federal response as well as comments from President Donald Trump, saying rebuilding Puerto Rico will take years and billions of dollars of federal funding.
"When you're talking about the people of Puerto Rico you're talking about Americans," Cuomo said. "And we never talk about leaving Americans in a critical situation. ... It's a long road and there's a lot of work to do. New York is going to be there."
The governor, considered a possible White House contender in 2020, traveled to the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico last month to survey hurricane damage. On Thursday, he criticized comments by Trump, who two weeks ago Tweeted: "We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!"
"I don't know how the president or anyone else can talk about leaving when it's been over a month and we still haven't made the kind of progress we need to make," Cuomo said.
He noted the approaching fifth anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which lashed New York City and Long Island.
"We rebuilt a New York that is better and stronger than it was before Hurricane Sandy," he said. "That should be the attitude in Puerto Rico."
The state already has sent several tons of supplies - including 1 million bottles of water - as well as hundreds of personnel, including members of the New York National Guard and state police.
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Updated: October 26, 2017 04:23 PM
Created: October 26, 2017 06:51 AM
(Copyright 2017 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)