Giving Back

Murphy’s Puerto Rico Relief Commission to connect families to resources

df684682a60d678a72b3_40850293731_36248fb928_z.jpg
Members of the Commission Credits: Matt Hersh
df684682a60d678a72b3_40850293731_36248fb928_z.jpg

PERTH AMBOY - Stephanie Márquez-Villafañe, president of the student-based Puerto Rican action group Rutgers Unión Estudiantil Puertorriqueña, offers a sobering assessment of New Jersey’s Puerto Rican student community in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, the worst hurricane to hit the U.S. territory in recorded history.

"University students have expressed a lack of available resources to them and while they have housing through the university—which only lasts during the semester—and an available food pantry that meets certain nutritional needs, students feel as though they do not qualify for the aid being offered to other Puerto Rican migrants,” Márquez-Villafañe said, speaking to a roomful of residents March 16 at Perth Amboy’s Brighton Avenue Teen Center.

Villafañe’s account reflected just one of several obstacles facing the Puerto Rican community, obstacles that were documented at the latest meeting of Gov. Phil Murphy’s Commission on Puerto Rico Relief. The 18-member commission assembled by the administration last month is chartered to collaborate with state and federal agencies in order to expedite relief for families in need.

Sign Up for E-News

“It is possible the information is not reaching the students correctly and there are many students struggling with credits and tuition,” Villafañe said.

Commissioner Sam Delgado, Vice President of External Affairs at Verizon, said the Commission's education subcommittee has been looking into providing in-state tuition rates for students affected by the storm, as well as easing transferal for students who have spent time on the island with their families.

Assemblywoman Yvonne Lopez (D-19th Dist.) is supporting legislation to help displaced professionals from Puerto Rico find work on the mainland. The bill number is A-5255, which would revise state law regarding the reciprocity process for out-of state professionals and occupational licensing. 

The Commission, created last month by Murphy through an executive order, works with state agencies to examine services already provided to Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican evacuees in New Jersey. The Commission is also collaborating with federal agencies to expedite processes that will benefit Puerto Ricans in New Jersey in need of services, as well as non-profit agencies that provide safety-net services to all those who have been displaced.



Members of Middlesex County’s Puerto Rican community affected by Hurricane Maria filled the Brighton Ave. Community Center in Perth Amboy last week to seek answers and learn about available resources.  

Perth Amboy Mayor Wilda Diaz welcomed the statewide commission and expressed encouragement that their mandate will bolster local efforts.

"When Superstorm Maria hit the island we brought many organizations together to see how we were going to address the families in need. Our social services provided assistance, our businesses created partnerships, we held food drives and sent supplied to the island. We even deployed our local police officers to the island," she said.

But her trip to Puerto Rico in December with then Gov.-elect Murphy amplified the need for a statewide approach.

"I appreciate Gov. Phil Murphy for putting this commission together and to provide us with the know-how to get it done," she said.

Commission Vice Chair Peggy Anastos said an organized system of sustained, cross-silo collaboration was the “only way we’re going to address the broad needs of the Puerto Rican community.

“We’re going to work together to see how New Jersey can work to help the American Citizens of Puerto Rico. We’re going to listen so you can tell us what you need and what your problems are,” she said.

It’s no small task as major obstacles identified for Puerto Rican families include hardships on mortgage payments, utility bills, and reaching the island’s rural areas to provide water and power and creating job training and workforce development programs for Puerto Rican residents relocating to New Jersey.

“This disaster is long-term and it’s going to be intergenerational,” Verizon’s Delgado said. “The goals we propose have to be realistic.”

TAP Into Another Town's News:

You May Also Be Interested In

Sign Up for E-News

Newark

Thousands rally in Newark as part of the nationwide March for Our Lives

March 24, 2018

Newark, NJ—Thousands of protesters converged on Newark's Military Park today as part of the nationwide March for Our Lives demonstrations calling for an end to gun violence. 

Led by students from around New Jersey, the Newark rally was just one of nearly two dozen marches taking place across the state, and one of hundreds of protests across the United States, pushing for ...

LUPE Fund, Inc. to Announce the 2018 Young Latina Leadership Scholarship Recipients during Power of Women Reception

April 16, 2018

Newark, NJ – The LUPE Fund, Inc. will announce the selection of seven outstanding undergraduate students to receive the 2018 Young Latina Leadership Scholarship during their annual Power of Women Reception. LUPE Fund’s Power of Women Reception and 15th Anniversary Celebration will be held on May 2, 2018, from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at Waterside Restaurant, located at 7800 River Road in ...

TAPinto Newark Gala Scene

As gala season approaches, TAPinto Newark has launched a Gala Scene section to provide a space for non-profit organizations to post announcements about their upcoming galas and submit a short writeup about their gala afterwards.

TAPinto Newark invites non-profit organizations to submit a press release about their upcoming galas. After the gala is over, please feel feel to upload a short story ...

Making Our City Bloom Gala Will Benefit Greater Newark Conservancy

Linda Bowden, Regional President of PNC Bank, New Jersey will be the event emcee at the “Making Our City Bloom Gala” to benefit the programs of Greater Newark Conservancy on May 10th at Nanina’s in the Park in Belleville.

The Conservancy provides educational programs that enrich the lives of thousands of inner city children from pre-school to high school. Sustainably-raised ...

High-Tech Gadgetry Fuels the 35th Anniversary of the World Series of Birding

April 6, 2018

BERNARDSVILLE – For any real competitor, there’s the ultimate competition: think the Final Four. Or the Super Bowl. Or the biggest cucumber at the state fair.

For birdwatchers, the not-to-miss event is the annual World Series of Birding, to be held Saturday, May 12. It’s a proud New Jersey exclusive.

Individuals and teams fan out across the state for a ...

Rutgers protesters planned at Tuesday's Board of Governors meeting

April 9, 2018

NEW BRUNSWICK - If you believe what you read on Facebook these days, it would appear that more than 100 protesters will be storming the Rutgers University Board of Governors meeting at noon on Tuesday, April 10.

The reason? 

Contracts are set to expire in June for  20,000 faculty and staff members at the university.

But that is not the only issue at hand. There are a laundry ...

Safe Sleep for Babies Requires Effort from All

April 10, 2018

For more than a decade, my organization, Keeping Babies Safe (KBS), has sounded the steady drumbeat of safe sleep awareness, which in turn has created bans on dangerous products and has helped enact laws that work to ensure babies are sleeping safely.

In 2018, KBS kicked off its latest awareness campaign designed to promote safe sleep practices and products ...