Tuesday, August 11, 2020

U.S. House passes Puerto Rico amendments to disaster funding bill

By on January 16, 2019

SAN JUAN – The U.S. House of Representatives has approved two proposals authored by Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY) aimed at assisting Puerto Rico. The amendments were approved as part of H.R. 268, a supplemental spending bill that appropriates additional funding for disaster assistance.

“I want to thank Chairwoman Lowey and all my colleagues for passing legislation to help Puerto Rico, Texas, Florida, California and other parts of our nation affected by recent disasters,” Velázquez said. “I’m especially appreciative that the Chairwoman worked with me to pass two amendments that will help address nutritional and environmental challenges in Puerto Rico.”

H.R. 268 included $600 million in funding for the Nutrition Assistance Program for Puerto Rico, the amount requested by Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló “to ensure residents of the island continue receiving vital nutrition assistance,” according to a release by the office of the congresswoman. In addition, the House approved a Velázquez amendment that would appropriate funding to study how properly funding NAP helps the island.

“I thank my Democratic colleagues for securing $600 million for the NAP program, so we can continue providing food assistance to the people of Puerto Rico as they continue recovering from the historic damage from Hurricane Maria,” Velázquez said. “This is a lifeline of funding that Congressional Republicans failed to include in previous appropriations bills and I’m pleased to see it passed, today. In addition, my amendment would provide additional resources to carefully examine the NAP program, look at disparities between how it functions in Puerto Rico versus the mainland and begin building the groundwork to address food insecurity on the Island for the long term.”

Velázquez’s amendment appropriates $5 million to conduct an analysis of how the NAP program functions with the intent of improving performance.

The House also voted to include legislation authored by the congresswoman to dredge the Martín Peña Channel in San Juan, which is clogged. Some 25,000 resident who live near the channel face public health and safety challenges because “storm water and the regional sewer system contribute to high concentration of coliforms in the channel and the waterway frequently floods after heavy rains putting residents into direct contact with polluted water,” the release reads.

Velázquez’s amendment would appropriate $25 million for dredging the channel.

“For decades, Caño Martín Peña has been an environmental sore spot in San Juan and a health hazard for surrounding communities,” said Velázquez. “For the families and especially children who live in the surrounding area, flooding of contaminated water from the canal represents a serious public health threat. With thousands of structures continuing to discharge sewage into the canal and the presence of Mercury, lead and PCBs, we have an obligation to see the remediation of this troubled waterway. My amendment would allocate additional federal resources to help resolve this problem and I thank my colleagues for helping pass it.”

The Emergency Supplemental bill, with Velázquez’s amendments passed the House by a vote of 237 to 187. The legislative package now moves to the Senate for consideration.

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