The U.S. House of Representatives approved Thursday the Supplemental Appropriations Bill Disaster, HR 2266, which allocates $35 billion for emergencies and benefits Puerto Rico in the recovery phase following the landfall of two hurricanes in less than two weeks.
The supplementary measure that passed with a 353-69 vote adds to the current federal budget benefits Puerto Rico as follows:
- $13.7 billion to replenish the Federal Emergency Management fund;
- $4.9 billion to lend to the governments of Puerto Rico and U.S. Virgin Islands under the Disaster Assistance Direct Loan Program, which will provide liquidity to the two Caribbean governments until the end of this year;
- $1 billion for the Emergency Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Puerto Rico does not have access to this program, as the island has it’s own. However, due to the back-to-back hurricanes, Congress will allow Puerto Rico to participate. SNAP is a program funded with federal funds to help low-income people buy healthy foods;
- $16 billion for flood insurance; and
- Authorization the Department of Defense so that they can maintain their level of support until needed.
“The funds allocated to this bill are urgently needed to obtain resources for families and American communities that are still suffering,” said Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, Jenniffer González. “This will allow us to continue immediate relief efforts and help start the rebuilding process.”
González also drew attention to side-effects of the disaster and the mass emigration it is provoking, and its consequences: “This unprecedented humanitarian crisis in our own nation has set off what will probably become a mass exodus of Puerto Ricans to the various states, jeopardizing the long-term recovery of the island.”
Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, said “the approval in Congress of the initial measure of assistance for Puerto Rico represents an important federal action that will allow the government of Puerto Rico to have the necessary liquidity to continue operating and complying with payroll and pension payments, as well as providing essential services to the people.”
“I am grateful to both the White House and Congress for their prompt response and joint action, in answer to our request,” said the governor, while acknowledging the work done by the resident commissioner, Jenniffer González and the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington (PRFAA), Carlos Mercader, and his team.
The legislation approved allocates over $6 billion for the operations of the government of Puerto Rico and represents the first of several measures that will be under consideration by Congress at the request of the Rosselló Administration, as a consequence of the emergency that the island is experiencing after the impact of Hurricane Maria.
“Our claim for equal treatment for the American citizens in Puerto Rico is being attended to in Washington and the approval of this initial measure is proof of this,” concluded governor Rosselló.
Today, the governor will hold meetings on the island with the speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Paul Ryan.