Massachusetts has all hands on deck to help with Puerto Rican aid and recovery efforts.
The Baker-Polito administration announced the mobilization of a unit of the Massachusetts National Guard (MANG) on Friday evening. The six-member MANG communications unit will be going to the island for up to 30 days to support rebuilding the mobile communications network, which has been devestated severely. Only 100 of the island's 1600 cell towers remain standing after the Hurricane, according to statements from the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority. Ninety-one percent of the island remains without cell coverage.
"We are proud that members of the Massachusetts National Guard will mobilize to Puerto Rico to assist in the recovery operations on the island where lines of communication have been badly damaged," said Gov. Charlie Baker. "Massachusetts is ready and willing to offer additional support to Puerto Rico with personnel and equipment as requested and is preparing to welcome disaster survivors seeking temporary or permanant residency in Massachusetts."
A new fund was also established on Friday in Massachusetts to help rebuild in Puerto Rico eight days after the island was devastated by Hurricane Maria.
Baker and Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico fund on Friday morning, and said the state and city are ready to help those who may be relocating from Puerto Rico to the Bay State.
The relief fund, which only existed for a day before its official announcement, has already raised $300,000 of its several million dollar goal to help the U.S. territory, which has a population of 3.4 million.
"Boston is ready to step up in any way," Walsh said, adding later, "Today is about unity, today is about all of us coming together."
Saying he was "thrilled" that the Trump administration suspended the Jones Act, a 1920 law that restricted shipping to Puerto Rico from international sources, Baker said Puerto Ricans are "in a world of hurt down there."
"We've already started to make plans for the fact that there are clearly going to be folks, once planes are flying again, who are going to be - who literally lost their home, lost everything, the school that their kids went to, probably the place they were employed - are going to be coming to places like Massachusetts to relocate, probably some on a temporary basis and maybe some on a permanent basis."
Plans to help Puerto Ricans relocate to Massachusetts include housing, employment and education resources.
Up to one third of the total funds raised will immediately be used for relief efforts, while the rest will be distributed over the next year for reconstruction and economy recovery projects in Puerto Rico and relocation efforts in Boston and Massachusetts.
The fund will also be managed by the Boston Foundation and hosted in partnership with the Latino Legacy Fund.
"The humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico is so severe that it will be months if not years before the island fully recovers," Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation, said in a statement.
Massachusetts has the fifth largest population of Puerto Ricans in the continental U.S., and just over 25 percent of Boston's Latino population identify as Puerto Rican.
Leaders on the island have criticized the federal government's response, calling it disorganized as supplies start to run out, with one lawmaker calling the federal government's response "a disaster."