Charlie Baker: National Guard unit heading to Puerto Rico

Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker speaks at the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee hearing to discuses ways to stabilize health insurance markets​, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017. ( AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker. –Jose Luis Magana / AP, File

BOSTON (AP) — Republican Gov. Charlie Baker announced Friday that Massachusetts will be sending a six-person National Guard communications unit to Puerto Rico for up to 30 days.

Baker said Puerto Rico had accepted the offer for the unit to help support satellite-based data and mobile communications on the hurricane-ravaged island, where communication lines have been severely damaged.

Baker said Massachusetts stands ‘‘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 permanent residence in Massachusetts.’’

Baker said the request for assistance from Puerto Rico came through the Emergency Management Assistance Compact — the national emergency management mutual aid system that streamlines state-to-state disaster assistance.

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The governor said Massachusetts will remain in contact with Puerto Rico officials and federal authorities throughout the response and recovery effort.

The decision to send the unit followed an announcement earlier Friday by Baker and Democratic Boston Mayor Marty Walsh of a new Massachusetts fund for hurricane victims in Puerto Rico.

Baker said The Massachusetts United for Puerto Rico Fund will distribute money that it raises to help reconstruction and relief in Puerto Rico and to aid those from the island seeking temporary or permanent residence in Massachusetts.

Baker said Friday that Massachusetts is home to one of the largest communities of Puerto Rican Americans in the country.

Democratic state Rep. Jeffrey Sánchez of Boston, who has family members in Puerto Rico, will serve as the honorary vice chairman of the fund’s advisory committee.

The fund will work to collect donations from foundations, corporations and individual donors.