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Pierluisi: P.R. Task Force chair to be named this week

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.

Resident Commissioner Pedro Pierluisi.

Puerto Rico’s Resident Commissioner in Washington, Pedro Pierluisi, said Tuesday that U.S. House Speaker Paul Ryan could name the lawmaker who will steer the work of the Puerto Rico Congressional Task Force this week.

With that person in place, the Task Force created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA) will begin working in a more formal manner, he said.

The eight Congressional lawmakers who will sit on the Task Force — Pierluisi, Rep. Tom MacArthur (R-NJ), Rep. Sean Duffy (R-WI), Rep. Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Bob Menéndez (D-NJ), and Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) — were announced last week, and have been communicating informally since, Pierluisi added.

“It’s crucial that the Puerto Rican government enacts common-sense, pro-growth reforms. Reps. Duffy and MacArthur are the leaders we need to make the right recommendations so Puerto Rico can create jobs and reboot its economy,” said Ryan in a statement upon naming the two Congressmen.

The Task Force is charged with a number of responsibilities through Dec. 31, when it will be required to produce a report outlining roadblocks in current federal law and programs to boost economic growth in Puerto Rico, including equitable access to federal health care programs.

The group is also required to highlight recommended changes to federal law and programs that, if adopted, would spur sustainable long-term economic growth, promote job creation, reduce child poverty, and attract investment in Puerto Rico, Pierluisi explained last week upon being named to the Task Force by Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.

Before reaching that final milestone, the Task Force must provide a status update of the matters that may need urgent consideration by Congress between Sept. 1-15. The group is authorized to hold public hearings to gather input from stakeholders, one of which must be held in Puerto Rico.

“The Task Force will likely create an email account and solicit information from stakeholders,” once it begins its work, Pierluisi said.

He added that his expectation is that the report to be produced before the end of the year will “provide a simple and clear roadmap for federal policymakers, describing those programs and policies under which Puerto Rico is treated in a distinct manner relative to other US jurisdictions, and observing ways in which Congress could take legislative action or the executive branch could take administrative action to promote economic growth on the island.”

Areas to be examined will include federal health programs and incentives designed to encourage investment and job creation, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit.

In a statement issued last week, Velázquez said she will pay special attention to obtaining Medicare/Medicaid parity for Puerto Rico and address the expiration of tax incentives that encouraged economic progress in Puerto Rico. She also said legislation should be enacted to determine, on the long-term, what the island’s status and economic model will be.

“Through its restructuring provisions, PROMESA provides the mechanisms to stabilize Puerto Rico’s economy. However, it did not provide any tools or resources to promote long-term economic growth on the island,” she said.

“That will be the focus of this Task Force and I look forward to working with my colleagues in the House and Senate to build consensus in this area. PROMESA is a start and will help stem Puerto Rico’s crisis, but Congress must do more to promote long-term growth on the island. I hope this Task Force provides the momentum to do just that,” Velázquez said.

Author Details
Author Details
Business reporter with 29 years of experience writing for weekly and daily newspapers, as well as trade publications in Puerto Rico. My list of former employers includes Caribbean Business, The San Juan Star, and the Puerto Rico Daily Sun, among others. My areas of expertise include telecommunications, technology, retail, agriculture, tourism, banking and most other segments of Puerto Rico’s economy.

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