Tuesday, September 17, 2019

U.S. officials see our commitment, Puerto Rico governor says

By on September 11, 2019

Gov. Wanda Vázquez meets with Bruce Walker, the U.S. Energy Department’s assistant secretary for the Office of Electricity (Courtesy)

Vázquez continues week-long agenda of meetings in Washington, D.C.

SAN JUAN — In her third day of meetings with federal officials and members of Congress in while in Washington, D.C. , Gov. Wanda Vázquez continued to discuss issues related to the disbursement of funds for Puerto Rico’s economic development and the island’s slow recovery after hurricanes Irma and Maria struck two years ago.

The governor had meetings scheduled Wednesday with Reps. José Serrano (D-N.Y.), Darren Soto (D-Fla.), Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.) and the ranking member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rob Bishop (R-Utah), according to an agenda sent to Caribbean Business. 

In her meeting with Serrano, Vázquez was accompanied by the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Jennifer Storipan; La Fortaleza Public Policy Secretary Philippe Mesa; COR3 Executive Director Ottmar Chávez; the executive director of the Puerto Rico Fiscal Agency and Financial Advisory Authority, Omar Marrero; her representative to the Puerto Rico Financial Oversight and Management Board, Eli Díaz; and Puerto Rico Housing Secretary Fernando Gil. Several other officials have accompanied Vázquez during her first official trip to Washington, D.C.

Several pressing issues were discussed with members of Congress, including the island’s recovery plan, the fragile electrical system, Puerto Rico’s admission as a state, Medicaid funds and the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management & Stability Act (Promesa). 

On Thursday, the governor is slated to meet with Reps. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), Greg Walden (R-Ore.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Ark.), as well as with Federal Emergency Management Agency officials.

According to the governor’s office, Vázquez spoke Tuesday with Ross Vought, deputy director of White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and they discussed recovery and reconstruction plans, and Medicaid funding for Puerto Rico.

Gov. Wanda Vázquez, several members of her cabinet and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González meet with U.S. Treasury Secretary Stephen Mnuchin, second from right. (Courtesy)

“We are working hard to reestablish trust,” Vázquez said in a statement. “Today [Tuesday] was a fruitful day of meetings because we touched on important topics for Puerto Rico’s reconstruction. We met with the Department of Energy, the OMB, with President Trump’s special adviser, Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Treasury officials, among others. The recognition and openness of the officials was comforting. Their response was of total support for the people of Puerto Rico, given that their positions have changed, seeing the commitment to transparency, teamwork and the effort we are making for the wellbeing of all Puerto Ricans.”

Gov. Wanda Vázquez, several members of her cabinet and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González meet with U.S. Housing Secretary Ben Carson (Courtesy)

Housing Secretary Gil said the meetings have been very productive and that Puerto Rican officials have been able to give their stateside counterparts details about the actions taken during the reconstruction process, as well as how the resources received have been used.

“During the meetings, we demonstrated the prevailing need to prioritize the disbursement of the rest of the funds already allocated to successfully continue the reconstruction,” Gil said.

House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raul Grijalva announced Wednesday that he would be flying to Puerto Rico and meet with Vázquez, Monday at La Fortaleza. He will also meet with the leaders of the the Legislative Assembly.

“In addition to those meetings, Grijalva’s upcoming trip to Puerto Rico will include visits to San Juan, Loíza, Guayama, Adjuntas, and Vieques,” reads a statement issued by his office. “Grijalva will hold a series of meetings with local leaders to discuss the pace of reconstruction across the island and gather information on coastal erosion, coal emissions and other environmental issues.”

Grijalva’s visit follows a trip and listening session by committee members in March. When announcing the visit back in March, the chairman said he considered Puerto Rico “an agenda item of vast importance to the Natural Resources Committee, and consequently to the United States Congress.”