Puerto Rico gov meets with Trump officials, members of Congress
SAN JUAN – Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met Thursday with members of the Trump administration and members of Congress to discuss the island’s recovery and reconstruction after the 2017 hurricane season.
Rosselló met with the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to discuss the implementation of Opportunity Zones on the island. Mnuchin, the governor’s office said, “emphasized the need to designate the entire territory of Puerto Rico as an Opportunity Zone,” which provides tax benefits.
During his visit to the U.S. Capitol, Rosselló discussed the state of Puerto Rico’s electric grid with Energy Deputy Secretary Dan Brouillette and assistant secretaries Mark Wesley Menezes and Bruce J. Walker.
Rosselló met at the White House with Trump Homeland security adviser Douglas Fears and National Security Council member Mark Harvey as well.
Among the issues addressed during the White House meeting, “the governor discussed the need to amend Section 428 of the Stafford Act so that there is more flexibility in the disbursement and use of funds allocated for the continuing recovery and reconstruction of Puerto Rico,” according to a release issued by his office, which added that he “shared the Government’s vision for the transformation and modernization of Puerto Rico’s energy grid.”
The governor also discussed the “effectiveness and efficiency of the recovery process on the Island; the proper use of federal funds for the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority; and the need to extend federal cost-share for categories A and B of the Stafford Act.”
Rosselló also met with Housing’s secretary, Ben Carson, and deputy secretary, Pamela Hughes Patenaude, to whom he advocated for the implementation of “a comprehensive partnership for the use of Community Development Program funds in order to meet the non-federal cost share requirements of the Public Assistance program”
Rosselló was accompanied by the secretary of the Puerto Rico Department of State, Luis Gerardo Rivera Marín; and the executive director of the Federal Affairs Administration of the Government of Puerto Rico (PRFAA), Carlos Mercader.
The officials “reiterated that federal recovery funds cannot be used to make debt payments as there are mechanisms in place that ensure accountability and transparency,” the release reads. “In addition, they reiterated that the Government of Puerto Rico prioritizes the reconstruction and recovery of the island as well as the welfare of its people over the payment of the debt.”
Rosselló later met with Puerto Rico’s resident commissioner in Congress, Jenniffer González, with whom he discussed “end-of-year priorities.”
He also spoke with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer (D-NY). New York Reps. Nydia Velázquez, José Serrano, Adriano Espiallat and Nita Lowey participated in the meeting with Pelosi.
Rosselló expressed a need for additional emergency funding for Puerto Rico’s Nutritional Assistance Program (NAP), which are expected to run out by March, as well as for an extension of the 100% federal cost-share for categories A and B of the Stafford Act.
The governor’s release added that Schumer said Puerto Rico is “part of what he represents in Congress” and reiterated his commitment to the island.
Rosselló and Mercader met with Senate Appropriations Committee Vice Chairman Patrick Leahy, who they thanked for his “commitment to Puerto Rico throughout the recovery and reconstruction of the island,” and discussed “the need to address Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding, which faces a significant cliff if a sustainable mechanism to support it is not implemented.”