US Congress recommends multimillion-dollar emergency relief for Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González announced the filing of legislation that would assign more than $35 billion for emergencies that include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands and address hurricane damages and wildfires.
González stressed that this multimillion-dollar allocation of disaster funds is the result of high-level visits to Puerto Rico by President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence and House Speaker Paul Ryan, who is expected to arrive Friday. Also, the resident commissioner has discussed the island’s situation with members of Congress as well as during a Republican conference and a roundtable of the House Natural Resources Committee, where the USVI was also discussed.
She said the measure is more evidence of the commitment of the executive branch and Congress to the island’s recovery. The bill is expected to be approved in Thursday’s House session.
The supplementary bill adds funds to the current federal budget, assigning $13.7 billion to resupply Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds, to which the White House had requested Congress’ approval of $12.77 billion. González said the House added an additional billion dollars to the measure.
In addition, $4.9 billion would be assigned to government loans for both Puerto Rico and the USVI under the Community Development Loan Program to provide liquidity to both Caribbean governments until the end of the year.
Moreover, $1 billion would be assigned to the Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While the program does not include Puerto Rico because it has its own Nutritional Assistance Program (PAN by its Spanish acronym), the administration agreed to extend it to the island in light of the emergency.
SNAP is financed with federal funds and offers nutrition assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families on the U.S mainland and provides economic benefits to communities.
Statistics reveal the program helps people pull themselves out of unemployment, and has a multiplier effect on the economy.
Also, the measure authorizes the Department of Defense to maintain its level of support until needed and $16 billion for flood insurance, among other funds such as $500 million to respond to the fires in California.
“As I mentioned last week, this is the second supplementary emergency allocation. The first one assigned $7 billion to FEMA to deal with hurricanes Irma and Harvey in the nation, including Puerto Rico; $450 million for SBA [Small Business administration] disaster programs; and $7 billion for housing in the states affected by Irma. Last week I announced the White House request for $29 million; today, Congress responds with additional allocations that will allow Puerto Rico to continue with its rescue and emergency efforts,” González said.
“This isn’t the last allocation, more will come, but this is the first to benefit us directly by allowing us a loan of up to $4.9 billion to have liquidity. In addition, I continue working on measures for additional loans and direct federal fund allocations to Puerto Rico.”