Puerto Rico governor meets with U.S Housing, Energy secretaries
SAN JUAN – While on a stateside Puerto Rico advocacy tour, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló met Friday with federal government officials, such as Housing Secretary (HUD) Ben Carson, and members of Congress as part of his efforts toward the island’s recovery after Hurricane Maria.
According to a release issued by his office, Rosselló and Carson discussed several topics including the issue of informal housing on the island to “be able to help those who have property title problems to receive the necessary federal aid in order to rebuild their homes.”
During their meeting, the Housing secretary inquired about the recent blackouts that have occurred during the restoration of the electrical grid, with the governor replying that the outages reflect the fragile state of the island’s electric infrastructure and the “need to seek private capital to invest and improve the energy grid,” according to the release.
Rosselló thanked the secretary for the $18.5 billion allocation from the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) program to help repair damaged homes, businesses and the grid.
He also discussed the funds’ disbursement process with HUD’s deputy secretary, Pamela Patenaude. The Puerto Rico government will present a plan for the use of the funds and submit weekly reports to HUD.
Earlier, the governor met with Rep. Richard Neal (D-MA), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee, “who has expressed interest in the reconstruction process of the electric network in Puerto Rico,” the release reads, and “is willing to work with the chief executive on the tax issue,” which Congressman John Larson (D-CT) also told the governor was important for the island’s economic development.
Rosselló reiterated that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) “has not worked diligently on the assigned task and has not demonstrated a sense of urgency during the emergency.”
And that although “there is a good working relationship between the Government of Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA),” there are “many bureaucratic processes that need to be amended to speed up the aid,” the release further adds about the topics discussed.
The governor’s entourage included his chief of staff, William Villafañe; and the executive and deputy directors of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Carlos Mercader and George Laws, respectively.
The governor also met with Energy Secretary Rick Perry, who acknowledged that the commonwealth government “should lead the process of rebuilding the electricity grid. He also guaranteed to support the Island with the necessary resources and studies,” according to a governor’s office release, which adds that “Perry said that the role of the governor is to implement the public policy of Puerto Rico.”
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