Puerto Rico Relief Efforts

Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund: At the El Mundo Boston Hispanic Heritage Breakfast, Representative Sánchez, Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Governor Charlie Baker, and the Boston Foundation announced the creation of the Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund.

In conjunction with the Puerto Rican community in Boston, this fund will be the central drive for relief effort in Boston for Puerto Rico. Funds will be distributed for relief and reconstruction of the island of Puerto Rico and to respond to the substantial migration of Puerto Ricans who will arrive in Boston and throughout the Commonwealth in the months ahead.

The fund can be found at http://www.tbf.org/puertorico.

In an effort to keep the public abreast of disaster relief efforts in Puerto Rico, I will try to keep this website up-to-date with confirmed facts as I hear them from government officials, reputable news sources, and community activists. If you are interested in personally contributing to the relief effort, please click here.

Last updated 10/16/17 @ 2:30pm.

HERE'S WHAT WE KNOW (10/16/17, 2:30pm)

Here is a collection of information we've compiled since the last update:

Puerto Rico accepted an offer from the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) to mobilize a team of 69 law enforcement officers from across Massachusetts to assist with security duties in Puerto Rico. While deployed in Puerto Rico, law enforcement officers are expected to assist local law enforcement with enforcing the curfew and other security measures.

The National Guard has delivered five (5) truckloads of donated goods to the warehouse in Worcester.  These donated goods came from a collection point in Lawrence.  Tomorrow, the National Guard will deliver at least two more truck from Lawrence. MEMA and Massport continue to discuss options for flying the donated goods to Puerto Rico.

The Baker-Polito Administration has formed a state task force that is working to ensure that the state is prepared to support the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico for individuals who choose to self-evacuate the island and seek temporary or permanent residence in Massachusetts.


  • Death Count: 48
  • 13.7% of power restored
  • 43.3% of cell towers operating
  • 79.3% of gas stations open
  • 86.8% of grocery stores open
  • 105 shelters open
  • 100% of ports open
  • 100% commercial flights
  • 87%: number of empty beds on the US Naval Ship Comfort

What I'm Hearing:

  • Tulane University is offering a tuition-free guest semester for students from universities and colleges in Puerto Rico. Link.
  • Desperate for water, people are resorting to drinking water from condemned wells and sewage-infested waterways. Link.

JONES ACT WAIVER EXPIRES (10/9/17, 1:34pm)

The White House has let a 10-day shipping waiver expire for Puerto Rico, meaning foreign ships can no longer bring aid to the hurricane-ravaged island from U.S. ports. Lawmakers in Congress are still pushing to roll back the Jones Act, with Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) recently introducing legislation that would permanently exempt Puerto Rico from the shipping law.

STATUS UPDATE (10/5/17, 1:34pm)

Here is a status of critical indicators on the island of Puerto Rico:

  • Death Count: Nineteen people were killed directly by the storm — by drowning, being buried in mudslides, struck by falling objects or otherwise, Governor Rosselló said. He said the others had died indirectly — from a heart attack or suicide, or because they languished without oxygen or necessary medical care as hospitals floundered without power and patients were cut off from care.34 (hover over number for more info)
  • 9.2% of power restored
  • 26.1% of cell towers operating
  • 77.9% of gas stations open
  • 79.16% of grocery stores open
  • 132 shelters open
  • 75% of ports open
  • 100% commercial flights


69 officers from the State Police and local departments will assist local law enforcement in Puerto Rico with maintaining curfews and other security duties, the administration said in a statement. Among the officers are 17 members of the State Police, 24 Boston police officers, and additional officers from Chelsea; Easthampton, Everett; Hampden; Holyoke; Littleton; Lowell; Peabody; Provincetown; and Waltham. They are being sent in response to a request sent by the Puerto Rican government through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC) system. Here is the article in the Boston Globe.

RELOCATION NOTICE (10/4/17, 4:55pm)

City and state officials are preparing to assist with relocation efforts as people arrive in Massachusetts from Puerto Rico. If you need help resettling in Massachusetts, it is recommended to contact the Governor's constituent services hotline:

  • Local calls: 617-725-4005
  • Out-of-state: 888-870-7770
  • TTY: 617-727-3666

If you run into any other issues, do not hesitate to reach out to my office at 617-722-2990.


Per David Begnaud of CBS News: FEMA will hire 1,000 Puerto Ricans to help with relief efforts on the island. Send your resume to fema-workforce-carribean@fema.dhs.gov.


Per White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, President Trump has waived the Jones Act for Puerto Rico, effective immediately. The Jones Act is part of the 1920 Merchant Marine Act and requires all goods shipped between US ports to be carried by ships built, owned, and operated by Americans, thus doubling the cost to ship items to the island. The waiving of this law will allow foreign aid to be delivered directly to Puerto Rico.


Governor Baker spoke with Governor Rossello and released the following statement:

“Today, Governor Baker spoke with Governor Ricardo Rosselló to express his heartfelt condolences for the devastating damage and tragedy in Puerto Rico as a result of Hurricanes Maria and Irma and offered full support from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to provide all available assistance at Puerto Rico’s request.

“Governor Rosselló reinforced the importance of utilizing the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), the nationwide system that all states and territories, including Puerto Rico, use to coordinate assistance in the wake of natural disasters.

“The Baker-Polito Administration will continue to monitor the relief efforts in Puerto Rico and stands ready to deliver any assistance possible.” –Baker-Polito Administration



The Alliance for Puerto Rico held a meeting at IBA tonight, September 26, to coordinate relief efforts.  The Alliance has established the MASSxPR fund with a goal of raising $1 Million towards relief efforts. This money will be donated to trusted community-based organizations on the island. I will post a link once the official website is set up. Contact allianceforpuertorico@gmail.com for more information until then.

The identified organizations include:

Please spread the word about this with your networks. Again, I will post a link when the official site is up and running. Over $5,000 has already been committed to the cause. Watch the entire meeting on Facebook Live.



Massachusetts Secretary of Public Safety and Security Daniel Bennett wrote a letter updating legislators on the Baker Administration's actions regarding Puerto Rico disaster relief.

PR Letter to MA Officials by Jeffrey Sánchez on Scribd


David Begnaud is a CBS News Correspondent and has been posting frequent updates. His most recent post was on 9/26/17 at 5:00pm. He highlights the following facts, citing the Department of Defense:

  • FEMA is preparing to ship 350 satellite phones to Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands to facilitate communications
  •  In Puerto Rico the power utility is slowly restoring power to customers, including Centro Medico hospital and San Pablo hospital in Bayamon
  • Puerto Rico electric Power Authority is reporting generators on the island are operational, however 80% of transmission system and 100% of distribution system are damaged
  • ~44% of Puerto Ricans are without drinking water
  • 11 of 69 hospitals have power or fuel
  • Regarding the Guajataca Dam: Department of Defense says inspectors have found the dam to be in tact but in need of reinforcement to ensure stability, consulting with owner on risk mitigation.
  • The port of San Juan is opwen during the day
  • 7 other ports are open
  • Airports in San Juan and in Saint Croix and St. Thomas in the US Virgin Islands are open for relief only



I spoke with Massport CEO Tom Glynn to better understand the status of airports. He said that there are 10 flights arriving to the island daily (this is all flights, not just those from Massachusetts). These are being served by 4 airlines.



The city has been in touch with Puerto Rican officials, who told him they are not ready to receive any donated items. At this time, Puerto Rican officials don't know what they need and don't have the capacity to handle intake. Boston's Office of Emergency Management is staying in close contact with Puerto Rican officials, however, and has compiled a comprehensive resource page here: https://www.boston.gov/news/hurricane-maria-response-and-recovery-resources-puerto-rico