Congress could assign over $2 billion in funds for Puerto Rico
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Washington, D.C., Jenniffer González, announced that the U.S. Congress is expected to approve 12 appropriations bills that would assign some $2.02 billion in funds for the island and provide access to allocations in the $1.3 trillion budget bill to keep the federal government running.
The U.S. House of Representatives passed the spending bill Thursday. It now goes to the US. Senate for consideration, where it is expected to be passed.
Among the most notable allocations for Puerto Rico are $1.93 billion from the Nutrition Assistance Program, $61.1 million for remodeling of Punta Borinquen Ramey School in Aguadilla and $16 million highway investment.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would also be assigned $400,000 for work on the Bay of San Juan, $228,000 to inspect possible damage to work performed before Hurricane Maria struck the island, $150,000 to assess the state of certain projects and $100,000 for San Juan Bay maintenance and operations. The Army Reserve Center in Aguadilla would receive $12.4 million as well.
In addition, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) would be authorized to use other allocations to enhance its operations in Puerto Rico; the National Forest Service is urged to work with the local government to rehabilitate and restore the El Yunque National Forest. The secretary of the U.S.Army is required, as was the Navy’s secretary, to report on the Pentagon’s progress in cleaning and decontaminating its former sites in the island-municipality of Culebra.
The combined dozen bills under the 2,232-page “omnibus” government funding package allocate a total of $1.3 trillion to which Puerto Rico would have access. A release issued by the resident commissioner’s office in Washington lists the following:
“The measure allocates the largest amount of funds in 15 years for defense, some $655 billion with special emphasis on the “War on Terror” and a [2.4 percent] pay raise for [troops].
–”$23.3 billion for programs related to agriculture and rural community farms; Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC); research programs; infrastructure loans, pest control, and others.
–”$59.6 billion for “justice, science and commerce programs such as to prevent violence, illegal immigration control, drug and human trafficking; $2.3 billion for mental health programs, training and safety efforts in schools; programs to prevent violence against women, human trafficking and child exploitation; science programs such as NASA and NOAA.
–”$43.2 billion for water and energy programs such as those related to nuclear weapons safety; includes $6.83 million for works to reduce the risk of flooding by the Corps of Engineers, promote innovation in nuclear energy
–”$23.4 billion is for financial services with an emphasis on the implementation of the federal tax reform approved in 2017, allocations of funds for the FCC and for SBA.
–”$47.7 billion for national security that includes the Coast Guard, ICE, FEMA, cybersecurity, greater security in ports
–”$35.2 billion for the environment and the interior such as programs to preserve natural resources, for the National Park Service, the EPA, park reconstruction.
–”$177.1 billion for Work, Health and Education
–”$4.7 billion for the U.S. Congress
–”$90 billion for veterans’ affairs and construction of military facilities. Within this item, the largest allocation for the Department of Veterans Affairs, $81.5 billion, is granted, focused on improving health services, homeless care, suicide prevention, among others.
–”$54 billion for state and foreign operations as national security matters.
–”$70.3 billion for transportation, housing and urban development to be used on roadways, traffic safety, funds for community development, or CDBG [Community Development Block Grant].”
In a statement issued Wednesday evening, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló thanked congressional Democrats and Republicans for agreeing on the measures that would finance programs in Puerto Rico.
Puerto Rico was also included in the protections to medical cannabis programs, which would establish that Justice Department funds cannot be used to prevent the island from implementing its own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical cannabis.
“It is important to note that there is a significant allocation for education and transportation, in addition to the protections to medical cannabis programs that are vital for our patients.” We continue to work closely with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González to ensure equal treatment for the American citizens residing in Puerto Rico,” the governor said.