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Puerto Rico governor welcomes congressional disaster relief funding

By on February 7, 2018

Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González listens as Gov. Ricardo Rosselló speaks during a news conference.
(Courtesy photo)

SAN JUAN – After the U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday night passed a measure to keep the government running until March 23, a Senate plan could change that measure with an agreement that would prevent the government from running out of funds and shutting down Thursday at midnight.

The Senate announced it had reached an agreement Wednesday for a two-year budget that includes nearly $90 billion in hurricane disaster assistance for Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. The plan would also increase the U.S. government’s borrowing capacity to prevent it from defaulting on obligations due in a few weeks. It would be the U.S.’s first-ever default were it not to meet them.

However, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi told stateside media she would oppose the measure unless Republicans vowed to vote on a bill that would prevent certain immigrants that arrived in the U.S. when young, the so-called called “Dreamers,” from being deported.

In a statement following the news, Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló welcomed the emergency disaster relief funding and said it is expected to be voted on and approved Thursday.

“The bill includes over $6.8 billion assigned specifically to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these funds $4.8 billion will directly aid over 600,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Puerto Rico who were at risk of losing their coverage in April due to the Medicaid funding cliff,” reads the release issued by the governor’s office, La Fortaleza. “An additional $2 billion will go directly to rebuilding and improving the energy infrastructure of Puerto Rico.”

US Housing grants $1.5 billion to help Puerto Rico recover from hurricanes

“After months of intense advocacy efforts led by my Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) office in Washington, I am grateful that Congressional leaders have finally headed our demands to provide badly needed emergency relief to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico,” the governor said.

Rosselló added that “working hand in hand with senators Schumer, Nelson, and the broader Congressional Democratic Caucus in both House and Senate, we were able to secure a major legislative victory in this disaster funding legislation. I want to thank them and their Democratic colleagues for their great work on this bill.”

The governor explained that “this agreement will help address the critical healthcare needs of the most vulnerable residents of Puerto Rico. It will provide a period of stability to the Island’s entire healthcare system. While this is a great achievement for Puerto Rico, we look forward to working with Congress to find a sustainable long-term solution to Puerto Rico’s unequal treatment under Medicaid.”

The funding for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure will be provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) program.

Puerto Rico will also receive “significant funds from the broader CDBG-DR appropriation for rebuilding hundreds of thousands of damaged homes. This broader CDBG-DR appropriation, which will benefit Florida, Texas, California as well as Puerto Rico, totals $28 billion,” according to the release.

“As the tireless efforts to restore electricity to every resident and business in Puerto Rico continues, I welcome Congressional recognition of the need to not just restore power, but to also vastly improve the resilience and efficiency of our energy infrastructure.

The $2 billion in CDBG-DR funds, along with continued FEMA funding and support, will be vital to fuel Puerto Rico’s economic recovery and revitalization,” the governor said.

The La Fortaleza release adds that Puerto Rico will “also continue benefitting from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which will be appropriated an additional $23.5 billion for recovery, repairs and future mitigation efforts. These funds are in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be provided to Puerto Rico” through certain programs.

“While this bill isn’t perfect, and additional federal resources will need to be secured in the future, I am confident that working together with Congress we will be able to build back Puerto Rico better than ever,” Rosselló added.

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