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Congressional funding package includes $300M for P.R.

The 2017 Omnibus Appropriations Act under Congressional consideration may bolster Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program.
(Credit: Martin Falbisoner, wikimedia)

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló confirmed Monday that Puerto Rico was included in the Appropriations package expected to be approved by Congress this week, which will guarantee $296 million toward the Medicaid shortfall, $3.3 million for the dredging works in the San Juan Harbor, and $750,000 to start working on the Martín Peña Channel.

Additionally, the agreement includes funding specific to Puerto Rico for the Department of Homeland Security’s “Operation Stonegarden” and technical assistance to be provided by the U.S. Treasury, he said.

In 2010, Affordable Care Act provided supplementary funding for the island that will be exhausted without additional federal support. The $296 million in Medicaid funding issued in the FY17 spending agreement represents about half of what Puerto Rico will need to continue to provide coverage to its Medicaid eligible population in the next fiscal year, Rosselló said.

“I extend my gratitude to the White House Chief of Staff, Reince Priebus, who, after our conversation, understood the urgent need of Puerto Rico’s Medicaid eligible population,” he said.

“Likewise, I would like to thank the U.S. Secretary of Health, Tom Price, for establishing grounds for discussion at the federal executive level and Congress regarding the need for health funding for American citizens who reside in Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló.

The recently announced funding provides breathing room while the governor and the U.S. Congress work to find a long-term solution so that Rosselló can negotiate effective contracts with the Managed Care Organizations, he said.

Rosselló also acknowledged the Democratic Party leadership in the Senate and House of Representatives, Charles Schumer and Nancy Pelosi; and Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez; as well as the House of Representatives Speaker, Paul Ryan; Senator Marco Rubio and Congressman Sean Duffy from the Republican Party, “for understanding that Puerto Ricans’ access to healthcare is not a partisan issue.”

“The $295 million included in this package is a positive step, but only that – a down payment,” said Rep. Nydia M. Velázquez (D-NY). “Secretary Price has acknowledged that it will require $900 million to truly address the Medicaid shortage facing Puerto Rico. In coming months, we must press for additional funds to make up this shortfall.”

Meanwhile, the FY17 funding agreement provides for both feasibility ($730,000) and construction funding ($2.3 million) to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the San Juan Harbor Improvement project.

The project is designed to meet increasing demands of the growing global economy, the shipping and cruise industries as they progress to larger, more efficient vessels. The majority of the island’s maritime cargo and cruise ships pass through the harbor, handling more than 75 percent of the Puerto Rico’s non-petroleum waterborne commerce.

The Army Corps is partnered with the Puerto Rico Port Authority, which owns, operates, and manages facilities for cargo and cruise vessels at the harbor.

As for the $750,000 provided in the agreement for the Martin Peña Channel, it will enable the project to proceed to the Preconstruction Engineering & Design phase, which is the long-awaited next step before construction.

The Corps of Engineers will complete the engineering studies and designs for dredging approximately 2.2 miles of the eastern half of the Channel to a width of 100 feet and a depth of 10 feet, with slight variations in channel width and depth at the several bridges that cross the Channel.

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This story was written by our staff based on a press release.

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