Thursday, February 21, 2019

Puerto Rico gov’t disagrees with resident commissioner proposal for U.S. recovery czar for the island

By on February 8, 2019

SAN JUAN – The administration of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló does not support Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González’s proposal for the White House to appoint a “czar of recovery” for Puerto Rico.

In a radio interview, Anthony Maceira, the public affairs secretary at the governor’s office, La Fortaleza, said the commonwealth government already has more limitations than other jurisdictions have.

González made the proposal after a meeting with U.S. officials Thursday, including Office of Management and Budget Director Mick Mulvaney, who is also the acting White House chief of staff, to discuss the pace and delays regarding the disbursement of federal recovery funds for Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricane season.

Puerto Rico has not only submitted two recovery plans to U.S. officials but has also established the Central Office for Recovery, Reconstruction and Resiliency, or COR3, to manage incoming federal funds.

In a recent interview with Caribbean Business, COR3’s executive director, Omar Marrero, requested control of the disbursement of federal funds, citing a high level of red tape.

“This is not new, something similar had been discussed in December and we already believe the government of Puerto Rico has greater limitations and controls than what other jurisdictions have,” said Maceira, who is also the executive director of the Ports Authority.

González’s proposal calls for a federal official to coordinate the reconstruction needed in Puerto Rico following the passage of hurricanes Irma and María, due to the delay of federal funds. However, Maceira reiterated that the island has sufficient controls to ensure the proper use of federal funds.

“In the case of FEMA [Federal Emergency Management Agency], we have what is known as S. 270, which is an additional approval that is required before funds can be disbursed and that other jurisdictions do not have,” Maceira added.

The White House, however, already has a draft of the proposal, and the Trump administration’s reported lack of confidence may result in an executive order to name a recovery czar for the island.

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