Government

U.S. Congress OKs $6.8B in emergency disaster relief funding for PR/USVI

From left: Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Gov. Rosselló.

The U.S. House and Senate reached an agreement Wednesday on a federal disaster relief aid package for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands of $6.8 billion, government officials announced.

The emergency supplemental funding introduced Wednesday is expected to be voted on and approved today as part of the broader budget and appropriations legislative package.

The bill includes more than $6.8 billion assigned specifically to Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands. Of these funds $4.8 billion will directly aid more than 600,000 Medicaid beneficiaries in Puerto Rico who were at risk of losing their coverage in April due to the Medicaid funding cliff.

An additional $2 billion will go directly to rebuilding and improving the energy infrastructure of Puerto Rico.

“After months of intense advocacy efforts led by my Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration (PRFAA) office in Washington, I am grateful that Congressional leaders have finally headed our demands to provide badly needed emergency relief to the U.S. citizens of Puerto Rico,” said Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló.

Rosselló also added that “working hand-in-hand with senators Chuck Schumer, Bill Nelson, and the broader Congressional Democratic Caucus in both House and Senate, we were able to secure a major legislative victory in this disaster funding legislation. I want to thank them and their Democratic colleagues for their great work on this bill,” he said.

Th agreement will help address the critical healthcare needs of the most vulnerable residents of Puerto Rico. It will provide a period of stability to the island’s entire healthcare system.

“While this is a great achievement for Puerto Rico, we look forward to working with Congress to find a sustainable long-term solution to Puerto Rico’s unequal treatment under Medicaid,” Rosselló said.

The unprecedented emergency relief funding for rebuilding Puerto Rico’s energy infrastructure will be provided through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) program.

Puerto Rico will also receive funds from the broader CDBG-DR appropriation for rebuilding hundreds of thousands of damaged homes. This broader CDBG-DR appropriation, which will benefit Florida, Texas, California as well as Puerto Rico, totals $28 billion.

“As the tireless efforts to restore electricity to every resident and business in Puerto Rico continues, I welcome Congressional recognition of the need to not just restore power, but to also vastly improve the resilience and efficiency of our energy infrastructure.

The $2 billion in CDBG-DR funds, along with continued FEMA funding and support, will be vital to fuel Puerto Rico’s economic recovery and revitalization,” the governor said.

“With these resources we can begin rebuilding our housing and energy future, putting Puerto Rico on a new path forward,” he added.

Puerto Rico will also continue benefitting from the FEMA Disaster Relief Fund, which will be appropriated an additional $23.5 billion for recovery, repairs and future mitigation efforts. These funds are in addition to hundreds of millions of dollars that will be provided to Puerto Rico through agency specific programs.

“While this bill isn’t perfect, and additional federal resources will need to be secured in the future, I am confident that working together with Congress we will be able to build back Puerto Rico better than ever,” Rosselló added.

Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio and Puerto Rico Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González-Colón, thanked the work of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee for approving the funding.

“Virtually all of our spending priorities for Puerto Rico are included in this deal, including two years of funding for Medicaid and additional money for infrastructure, hospitals, community health centers and grid work repair,” Rubio said.

“This would not have been possible without the support of my colleagues in the Senate and the tireless work of  Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González-Colón in the House,” he said.

“This outcome would not have been possible without the steadfast leadership of my friend Sen. Marco Rubio, who, for all practical purposes, has become Puerto Rico’s representative and lead advocate in the U.S. Senate,” González-Colón said.

“Puerto Rico’s recovery will require a long-term commitment from Congress, but today’s compromise constitutes a big step in the right direction,” she added.

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