Puerto Rico Relief Commission releases recommendations

Months after Puerto Rico was devastated by hurricanes, Gov. Phil Murphy established a commission to work with state agencies and fast-track help for displaced Puerto Ricans. Thursday, the Relief Commission released its report. Senior Correspondent David Cruz is in Newark.

Cruz: Mary Alice, we’re here in Newark where of course the governor was supposed to be part of this event, but as you know he is in Paramus getting updates and giving us updates on the aftermath of that crash earlier today. This is the information we have right now: there were two fatalities, one student and one teacher. There were a total of 45 people on that bus today, 38 of them were students, 7 were adults. Forty-three survivors have been taken to area hospitals, their conditions vary from basically OK to several of those who are in critical condition.

As for the event here today, the governor, as you know, signed an executive order in February to create this commission that would try and find ways for Puerto Rico and New Jersey to work together in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. They released a report today with several recommendations. Joshua Rodriguez is the chairperson of this commission and he gave some startling statistics about what the impact of that storm actually was.

Rodriguez: There are estimates that the island’s economy will shrink about 8 percent in 2018, thousands of businesses, we know, have been unable to open due to ongoing blackouts left after the storm. There are estimates that over 200,000 people have left the island in the aftermath of the storm. Consulting firm Demographic Intelligence predicts that the island’s population may contract by close to 600,000 folks in the coming years.

Cruz: The governor of Puerto Rico, Gov. Rosselló was here to receive that report and to give thanks to the commission for their work. This is a man who has been challenged, and his administration is being defined by their reaction to Hurricane Maria. He’s an optimist by nature, and today he reflected those thoughts with some optimism about the possibility for a new Puerto Rico emerging from this tragedy.

Rosselló: As the recovery starts to end, right now we’re at a very important juncture in the history of Puerto Rico. We have the opportunity to really break through all the obstacles of the past and rethink Puerto Rico anew.

Cruz: We should say that the hurricane season is about to begin. It’s probably about two weeks away. The bottom line here is that Puerto Rico is an island that is still very much in crisis. The educational system, the tourism sector, the power grid, the roads, all in need of immediate attention. It’s going to be years of hard work before this island is made whole again, but as they said here today, this is a good beginning.