Gov. Baker Talks to Governor of Puerto Rico, Offers Aid

Gov. Charlie Baker has spoken with the governor of Puerto Rico to offer any assistance Massachusetts can provide in the wake of hurricanes Maria and Irma.

Aides to the Massachusetts Republican said Baker wanted to express to Gov. Ricardo Rossello "his heartfelt condolences for the devastating damage and tragedy in Puerto Rico."

A task force is being developed to help the state support Puerto Rico residents who chose to leave and seek temporary or permanent residence in Massachusetts.

"My heart breaks for the people of Puerto Rico, whose lives were turned upside down by the devastation of these merciless hurricanes," Baker said. "Puerto Rican communities across Massachusetts have also been traumatized by images of the destruction and by fears that loved ones there are in danger. Massachusetts is ready to welcome disaster survivors and our administration is preparing to support those who seek temporary or permanent residence in Massachusetts."

Baker also offered Wednesday to provide all available assistance from Massachusetts that Puerto Rico requests, including state and local police officers; building, road and bridge inspectors; shelter supplies and support teams; animal rescue, veterinarian and animal shelter teams; National Guard personnel and resources.

Baker's comments come after one of his Democratic challengers for governor in 2018, Newton Mayor Setti Warren, called on him to deploy the Massachusetts National Guard to Puerto Rico as soon as possible.

An aide to Baker said Rossello stressed that it's important to use official channels - including the Emergency Management Assistance Compact - to coordinate help coming into Puerto Rico from other states and territories.

"The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency and the Massachusetts National Guard have assets and personnel at the ready and can mobilize them post-haste if called upon to do so," said Dan Bennett, secretary of the Executive Office of Public Safety and Security, which oversees both agencies. "Puerto Rico and her citizens are foremost in our minds and we have made all necessary preparations to provide maximum support to ease the terrible suffering there."

Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito is also encouraging those who can give cash donations to organizations helping with recovery efforts, including United for Puerto Rico and the Red Cross.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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