Puerto Rico Gov Looks Back at First 100 Days in Office
Highlights Covid-19 Vaccination Effort, Island’s Reconstruction
SAN JUAN — Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Pierluisi said Tuesday that in the100 days since he was sworn-in, he has worked with a sense of urgency to address the most pressing issues, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, the island’s reconstruction process, the fiscal crisis municipalities are facing, public education and gender-based violence. In addition, he assured that since his tenure began Jan. 2, he has managed to strengthen the relationship with the administration of U.S. President Joe Biden.
“During these first 100 days, we have worked as a team with agency heads to speed things up and take care of them urgently,” Pierluisi said in a statement. “There is no learning curve, we are acting promptly on the issues affecting the people. We’re taking care of the pandemic and advancing vaccination. Today, precisely, every resident 16 years of age and older can be vaccinated. We are also strengthening educational campaigns and restrictions so that the people do not let their guard down, as we need everyone’s cooperation to overcome this pandemic.”
The new vaccination phase comes at a time when more than one million vaccines have been administered in Puerto Rico, which ranks No. 6 globally in vaccine administration, according to the Financial Times. In his first State of the Commonwealth Address, the governor announced new restrictions to curb the spread of the coronavirus that will be in force until May 9.
On the other hand, the governor allocated $107 million from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (Cares) Act to public and private hospitals and other eligible health centers for the procurement of equipment, to carry out temporary improvements and issue payments for assumed risks, among other expenses related to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Among Pierluisi’s first actions to address the island’s reconstruction process was the creation, through executive order, of a Reconstruction Council, led by Secretary of State Larry Seilhamer. It establishes a reconstruction guideline so that agencies work in coordination on priority infrastructure projects quickly. Through another executive order, the governor declared a state of emergency in Puerto Rico’s infrastructure and ordered a pay increase for employees in federally funded construction. The order is also intended to help streamline repair and construction work in schools, which the governor has said is a priority for his administration.
Another issue the Pierlusi said he immediately addressed was declaring a state of emergency over gender-based violence. The PARE Committee was created to establish, improve and implement programs for the related protection, prevention and education and to establish programs that support victims. The committee is chaired by Family Department Secretary Carmen Ana González and includes a compliance official, attorney Ileana Espada, as well as civil organizations, universities and media outlets.
With regard to the government’s fiscal plan and the municipalities, the Pierluisi administration submitted a draft fiscal plan that it believes will pull Puerto Rico out of bankruptcy and move toward sustainable economic progress without further cuts to pensioners and the University of Puerto Rico.
Similarly, amid the critical situation municipalities are facing, the governor signed agreements of understanding with both the Mayors Association and the Mayors Federation. Pierluisi announced the distribution of $100 million in aid to municipalities through the Cares Act and its Coronavirus Relief Fund program, among other initiatives.
Since he was sworn into office, Pierluisi has stressed the urgency of opening schools partially, subject to Health Department protocol. In March, more than 100 public schools and 100 private schools opened partially.
As for the need for federal funding parity with the states, the governor said he has been in communication with members of Congress and White House officials, especially in an effort to seek equal treatment in the Medicaid and Medicare programs.
He has requested for Puerto Rico to be included in the full extension of the Child Tax Credit program and the matching of funds to an expanded local Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) to be included in a budget reconciliation project, among other federal government initiatives.
Pierluisi said that after communicating with U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, the agency allowed the local Education Department to use $912 million that had been frozen.
“On January 2, I told the people that my government is one that works. In just 100 days we have worked hard…. We will continue to work for Puerto Rico,” the governor concluded.
The governor’s office listed the following actions (in Spanish):