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How Minnesota is helping Puerto Rico and what you can do

The National Guard's helping with communications and medical supplies

More than a week after Hurricane Maria hit, the recovery effort needed to get Puerto Rico back on its feet is coming into focus. 

The 3.4 million residents of the island are American citizens and many of them are struggling to get food and water. Fuel and medial supplies are in short supply, too. 

Getting those things to people who need them is tough because many of Puerto Rico's roads are still blocked with debris. And it's hard to coordinate the road-clearing work because cell phone towers and power lines are down. 

The Federal Emergency Management Agency says there's been some improvement this week but there's a long way to go. 

What Minnesota's doing

Gov. Mark Dayton said in a statement Thursday state officials are paying attention to the requests for assistance to find the best ways Minnesota can help.

For one thing, seven Minnesota National Guard members have gone to Puerto Rico to help with communications.

For another, we're sending medical supplies. The National Guard has a med supply warehouse at Camp Ripley and since the start of the month they've sent $1 million worth of supplies to disaster areas in Texas, Florida, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico, the governor says. 

How you can help

Dayton and Lieutenant Gov. Tina Smith say they also want to be clear about the best ways individual Minnesotans can help. 

They say about 13,000 Puerto Rican people live in the state and most probably have family and friends who were hit by Hurricane Maria. 

Send money

Relief agencies like FEMA say cash donations are the most helpful because they can be used on whatever is needed most. 

Here are some options for donating: 

The St. Paul Foundation has set up a fund called El Fondo Boricua. From now through October 19 donations of $250 will be matched. They've also organized a benefit concert on the 19th. The foundation says it will turn the money over to non-profit groups in Puerto Rico.

Give through an agency. Which one? FEMA suggests picking one from the list of groups that are members of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disasters. Lots – but not all – of the organizations are church groups. 

Or you can send donations directly to the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico at this site

If you're want to send items to help the recovery, it's best to arrange it through one of the Voluntary Organizations approved by FEMA. They'll know what's needed and how to arrange the donation. 

Right now Puerto Rico does not want people sending unsolicited donations because of the time it would take to sort through them. 

There are also some groups – like the Twins – collecting food and water to send to Puerto Rico.

Volunteer

If you're willing to go to Puerto Rico yourself and help with the work, it's best to arrange that through an organization, too, instead of just showing up. 

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