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US Sen. Nelson sends letter to chamber leadership to address Puerto Rico recovery process

By on February 7, 2018

SAN JUAN – Gov. Ricardo Rosselló thanked the Democratic senator from Florida, Bill Nelson, for sending a letter to the leadership of the Senate to reiterate to Congress that it include disaster assistance in any funding bill approved this week.

Nelson addressed the letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY).

“Thanks to Senator Bill Nelson for being a champion in the recovery process after the passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria on the Island. We need to see action on the part of Congress, not just words,” Rosselló said.

“It has been over four months since Hurricane Mary struck and nearly one-third of the island is without electricity, funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid is running out, and reports indicate that over 300,000 of the island’s residents have moved to Florida,” Nelson wrote.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson met with Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló during a trip to the island in October. (Courtesy)

According to the Puerto Rico government, the island’s Medicaid program costs about $1.6 billion a year to run.

Also, in the letter the congressman demanded that the specific needs of Puerto Rico be addressed and be included in any disaster assistance in the government spending bill.

“This includes resources for their electric grid and waiving any required federal cost-shares for the island, which would force Puerto Rico to contribute recovery money it does not have. Additionally, it should include efforts to address Puerto Rico’s Medicaid funding cliff and also increase the federal matching rate from 55 percent to 100 percent for at least two years,” the senator said.

Puerto Rico is required to pay 10 percent of the cost of certain Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claims. By temporarily waiving this cost-share requirement, the federal government would pay the full cost of any FEMA claims made after Hurricane Maria.

The federal government matches only 55 percent of the cost for Puerto Rico to operate its Medicaid program. By temporarily decreasing this cost-share requirement, the federal government would be allowed to pay a greater share of the cost of the island’s program.

Nelson added that “our fellow Americans are desperately waiting for Congress to act on a disaster supplemental package to help them rebuild. I urge you to exercise your power as Senate leadership and attach disaster aid to any funding bill that moves through Congress this week.”

He also called for the elimination of rules requiring the government of Puerto Rico to seek approval from the island’s  fiscal oversight board for certain disaster payments.

“We cannot let another opportunity pass us by,” the letter concluded.

A copy of Nelson’s letter is here.

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