PR, NY governors, lawmakers call on feds to approve $94B in aid for PR
Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and members of the New York Congressional delegation called on the federal government to immediately approve a $94.4 billion federal aid package to “rebuild a stronger, more resilient Puerto Rico.”
Building on the efforts of New York State to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and María, New York officials and business and nonprofit leaders conducted an assessment of the damage and identified specific funding recommendations.
“Puerto Ricans are American citizens who deserve support and compassion when faced with disaster, and this federal funding is imperative to ensuring that the island builds back better than ever before,” Cuomo said. “We urge Congress to stop delaying this important request, take responsibility and immediately approve this critical funding.”
The report’s findings indicate that more than 472,000 housing units were destroyed and severely impacted, hundreds of thousands of Puerto Ricans have left to seek refuge in shelters or homes of family and friends, the agricultural sector was nearly totally destroyed, including the loss of almost 80 percent of planted crops and nearly all of the water and wastewater were rendered inoperable.
The breadth and depth of the devastation presents an opportunity to “begin again” and rethink the design of major components of the island’s infrastructure, invest in the quality and resiliency of its housing and public buildings and modernize how basic services are delivered to residents.
“With the help of New York and other partners, we are on the road to recovery after Hurricanes María and Irma, but there is still a monumental amount of work to be done to rebuild Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló, who was in Manhattan on Monday, when an explosion went off in the subway as it made its way below 8th Ave and 42nd Street.
“We are calling on Congress to recognize the people of Puerto Rico as equal citizens of the United States and take action to give us the help we desperately need. I thank Governor Cuomo and the New York delegation for their partnership in our advocacy and for all of their work to help the people of Puerto Rico,” he said.
The plan focuses on three areas of assistance:
- Public Assistance Program
- Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
- Community Development Block Grant
Within these areas, the plan identifies sectoral impacts with specific and strategic investments to rebuild stronger and better. The full report is available here.
- Housing – $31 billion
- Power Grid and Resiliency – $17.8 billion
- Agriculture – $2 billion
- Social Services – $288 million
- Economic Development – $3.2 billion
- Communications Infrastructure – $1.5 billion
- Roads and Bridges – $4.5 billion
- Ports and Airports – $1.4 billion
- Public Building Revitalization – $153 million
- Water and Water Control Facilities – $1.3 billion
- Sanitary Sewer and Storm Drainage – $1.4 billion
- Education and Schools – $8.4 billion
- Environment and Natural Resources – $1.6 billion
Together with $487 million for public safety and first response and $9 billion for long-term recovery management, the total funding need is $94.4 billion, the report confirmed.
“Puerto Rico is a part of our country and it is home to more than three million American citizens. The mayor of San Juan had a simple request since the start of the devastation: ‘Do not forget us and do not let us feel alone’,” said Congresswoman Louise Slaughter.
“We have an obligation to help our citizens during what will be a longer than anticipated period of rebuilding,” she said.
Congressman Sean Patrick Maloney said, “We New Yorkers lived through Sandy and Irene we know how important it is for Americans to act like a family — when someone in your family suffers a tragedy, you pitch in to help out. We’ve put some money down to help along the way, but we can’t let up — we need to provide more assistance to help our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico get back on their feet.”
Meanwhile, lawmakers José Serrano and Nydia Velázquez — who have been a voice for Puerto Rico in Congress — agreed the island needs a “comprehensive funding package” to get back on its feet.
“As one of the few members of Congress born on the island, I am proud to join my New York colleagues in working to ensure that the island can rebuilt and thrive going forward, and to hold the Administration accountable to the needs of all American citizens, regardless of where they live,” said Serrano.
Meanwhile, Velázquez said, “Puerto Ricans are American citizens and we cannot rest until the island is made whole. Now, we need the full force of the federal government to be brought to bear by approving a comprehensive recovery and relief package that will rebuild Puerto Rico to withstand future disasters.”
Stabilizing urgent health care needs
To stabilize urgent healthcare needs, Congress must take the following actions, the report suggested:
- 100 percent federal matching payments: Raise the statutory 55 percent federal matching rate for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program to 100 percent for 24 months.
- Maintain current funding levels: After the 24-month 100 percent match, Congress must continue current levels of funding for Puerto Rico’s Medicaid program, consistent with the federal government’s FY 2018 Budget request level of nearly $1.6 billion for at least three years.
- Eliminate the wrap-around payment requirement for federally qualified health centers, which current cost Puerto Rico $120 million per year.
The group also said Congress should not expand the powers of the Financial Oversight Board as it “would not only lead to government dysfunction, but it would also slow the recovery effort and it would take away the voice of the people of Puerto Rico and give it to an unelected body. The government of Puerto Rico must lead the recovery as the elected representatives of the voters of Puerto Rico.