Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Governor, resident commissioner announce federal funds for Puerto Rico recovery

By on February 9, 2018

SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, along with Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González announced an allocation of $16 billion in federal funds for the island’s recovery after Hurricane Maria.

This appropriation is part of budget legislation approved by Congress and signed Friday by President Donald Trump.

“These funds will allow us to advance the recovery of Puerto Rico after the passage of hurricanes Irma and Maria. The work carried out in Washington—together with resident commissioner Jenniffer González—was able to deliver the message of the urgency of an allocation of funds that meets the needs of the Island,” the governor said.

In addition to the $16 billion, Puerto Rico is also eligible to participate in other programs that could increase aid to the island to more than $45 billion.

“At dawn today, Congress approved an unprecedented measure in the history of Puerto Rico, which gives us access to more than $47 billion to improve our infrastructure, strengthen our communities, and address the needs of our people,” the resident commissioner said.

Likewise, González added: “We managed to comply with several of my most fundamental programmatic commitments, such as addressing the fiscal cliff of the Medicaid program. The unprecedented allocation of $4.9 billion that we obtained today for Medicaid will fully fund the Mi Salud program for the next two years without requiring the Government of Puerto Rico to pair a single cent.”

The governor said: “The efforts carried out by our Administration and the resident commissioner paid off. Now we cannot rest until the American citizens in Puerto Rico receive equal and fair treatment in the allocation of Medicaid funds.”

Likewise, $11 billion is allocated to the community development fund, known as the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), to repair homes, support local businesses and rebuild infrastructure while mitigating future risks.
From this figure, $2 billion will be separated to restore and make improvements to the electrical system.

In addition, $1.37 billion was approved for emergency assistance and $150 million under the Direct Loan Program to cover cost sharing with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González listens as Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló speaks during a news conference announcing the federal disaster relief package approved Friday (Courtesy)

Other items approved were for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Of the $17.39 billion, about $15 billion will be for construction of priority flood control works in all affected states and territories.

This includes channeling, dredging, dikes and pending works.

The legislation includes that the federal government will cover all costs for repairs, renovations, studies, designs and construction of USACE projects in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The resident commissioner thanked “the support given by speaker Paul Ryan and the entire leadership of the committees to the point that they allowed me to open the debate this morning. Also, for the tireless work and all the support from senator Marco Rubio. The congressional visits began to pay off. Will, passion, and patience were my best allies. There were many who did not believe this was possible. I always believed. So, today, I can say with satisfaction that we have achieved the largest allocation in history,” she added.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) provides Puerto Rico access to money from the State Revolving Fund previously assigned to help rebuild the island’s drinking water systems.

The Department of Labor received $30.9 million to rehabilitate and repair Job Corps centers in Puerto Rico.

Likewise, the Department of Defense assumes 100 percent of the total cost of construction, acquisition, expansion, rehabilitation or conversion of the Arroyo Preparation Center.

The National Guard receives $519.3 million to replace damaged facilities in various locations around Puerto Rico and the USVI.

Likewise, the Puerto Rico National Cemetery will receive a portion of $4.1 million for repairs.

Funds are provided to compensate for the reduction in collections for the Puerto Rico Trust Fund and USVI Deposit Fund because of the damage to ports and a reduction in trade from recent hurricanes.

In addition, $45 million is granted for repair and restoration of the San Juan Customs office, improve its functionality and halt its expensive leases.

The U.S. Immigration & Customs Enforcement Service (ICE) will allocate $64 million to repair its facilities in Puerto Rico, the USVI, Texas and Florida that were damaged by hurricanes.

It was also announced that the rum cover over was extended until fiscal year 2022, which would result in hundreds of millions of dollars in excise tax returns for Puerto Rico and the USVI.

Likewise, a $1.37 billion allocation was announced for the Emergency Recovery Program of the Federal Highway Administration. Puerto Rico will receive a 100 percent federal contribution to repair damages from hurricanes Irma and María. At present it is 80 percent.

Through the National Science Foundation, $16 million will be received for repairs to the Arecibo Observatory and its radio telescope.

Also added was $14 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (food stamps; also known as PAN in Spanish).

The appropriations approved are in addition to the $4.9 billion allocated by Congress under the Community Disaster Loans program and the $1.27 billion for PAN.

The two legislative packages could represent more than $35 billion for the Puerto Rico economy and its municipalities.

“Although these approved funds are a step in the right direction, it is very important to continue the pressure on the federal Congress and capital to do justice to the American citizens living in Puerto Rico. I would like to thank the resident commissioner for her great work and the members of Congress who voted in favor of the recovery of Puerto Rico,” Rosselló concluded in the release.


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