PATERSON, NJ-  When Hurricane Maria tore through Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017, President Donald Trump said the island was "obliterated," and, while the initial death toll at the time was minimal, a more recent study conducted by Harvard University indicated that nearly 5,000 people lost their lives to the devastating storm.

With roads wiped out, critical infrastructure destroyed, and power cut, residents turned to its vast Diaspora throughout the US for support. Paterson answered the call.

In the weeks immediately following the storm the city's first responders joined together and held a massive donation drive, collecting a container and a half of critical supplies such as water, diapers, mosquito repellant, and powdered milk, and many gave their own time to travel to the island, where many still have family, to lend a hand. 

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"As law enforcement officials we're used to coming to someone's aid at their greatest time of need," stated Alex Cruz, President, PBA Local 1 at the time. "For our brothers and sisters in Puerto Rico, now is the time they need us most." 

That help has continued and has, through the efforts of Paterson Partners with Puerto Rico, led to the donation of money and other supplies to help rebuild one of the many schools destroyed by the storm.

On Monday, June 11, Paterson will play host to an information session held by the New Jersey Department of Human Services, for people affected by the storm that have relocated to the area. The session will be held from 1:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m. at the Christopher Hope Community Center, locaed at 60 Hope Street.

According to a statement announcing the event, this is the eighth session held by the DHS giving attendees the opportunity to learn more about government assistance programs such as  NJ FamilyCare (NJ’s Medicaid program), WorkFirst NJ (NJ’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program), the New Jersey Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (NJ SNAP), and General Assistance (GA) programs that may help them in their new community. 

The information session is part of an ongoing effort by the state and DHS to help displaced Puerto Ricans in New Jersey, a number estimated by the Governor’s Commission on Puerto Rico Relief to stand at approximately 30,000. 

Saying that “the Island is still reeling from the storm and is expected to for several years,” Senator Nellie Pou (D-Paterson) who has been active in several efforts to provide relief, and traveled to the island in February, encouraged evacuees to attend the session to acquaint themselves with resources “available to them here in New Jersey, whether they intend to make New Jersey their new permanent home, or return to Puerto Rico.”

“Puerto Ricans are American citizens, we especially need to be there for them in their time of need,” Pou told TAPinto Paterson continuing to say that there are still 100,000 people without electricity and 55,000 living in temporary shelters.

“If we consider it unacceptable for New Jersey or any other State to exist under those previously mentioned conditions for even just days at a time, it should be an outrage that this is still the case in Puerto Rico.”

The Atlantic hurricane season officially began on June 1, which also marks Hurricane Preparedness Month.  To read New Jersey’s Hurricane Survival Guide, visit ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/hurricanes.shtml.

For more information on how to register with FEMA for disaster assistance, call 1-800-621-3362 or visit disasterassistance.gov.