Pierluisi testifies in support of ‘Build Back Better Plan’ before US House Committee
Gov. Pedro Pierluisi testified before the US House Committee on Natural Resources and discussed President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan, an infrastructure plan to transform the economy and provide relief to working families.
Specifically, the plan will provide assistance to Puerto Rico by supporting a full recovery, a reconstruction of the infrastructure, providing economic development initiatives, ensuring relief from unsustainable debt, expanding access to education and workforce development, and supporting families.
The Build Back Better Plan is a projected $7 trillion future economic and infrastructure package proposed by the Biden-Harris administration.
In his testimony, the governor began by stressing that the island has endured multiple natural disasters, a governance disruption, and struggles related to the COVID-19 pandemic, noting that the island’s progress has been made amid these unprecedented events.
During his statement, he also expressed his administration’s supports for the Oversight Board’s Plan of Adjustment presented before the Title III Court, except for the Oversight Board proposal to cuts Puerto Rico’s public pensions.
The testimony also outlined the measures the government of Puerto Rico has taken to reduce expenses and increase transparency on the use of public funds.
Regarding the reconstruction process, Pierluisi acknowledged Biden’s support by expediting and providing access to federal recovery funds that were withheld and assistance with previously imposed regulations that hindered the island’s long-term recovery.
In his statement, the governor recognized that the island’s infrastructure had to be rebuilt in a resilient way to withstand any future natural disaster and that a transformation of the electric grid was necessary.
The governor also addressed the disparities between the states and Puerto Rico’s healthcare and Nutritional Assistant Programs (NAP, in Spanish), as well as the Supplemental Security Income (“SSI”) benefits.
In his testimony, the governor also denounced the unequal treatment that American citizens that reside on the island are subjected to and called for equal treatment. He joined the Congressional members that have called out the US Department of Justice for defending the disparate treatment of Puerto Rico in federal programs.
During his virtual participation in the hearing, Pierluisi also addressed the island’s public education system, specifically Puerto Rico’s higher percentage of students receiving special education services and the need for increased mental health support for our children.
Among the island’s immediate needs, the governor mentioned the Title I program, which provides funding for schools that serve children from low-income families and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (“IDEA”) as well as investment in initiatives that address student’s mental health.
Pierluisi also mentioned the $100 billion in funding as part of the President’s plan for school construction that includes funds for Puerto Rico, stating that these funds would provide much-needed resources to rebuilt schools and meet codes for earthquake safety.
The governor also emphasized his support to invest in the University of Puerto Rico as an engine of economic growth by outlining $70 billion in funding as part of the Minority-Serving Institutions in the plan.
Sustainability ‘is key’
In his statement, he argued that when PROMESA was enacted, no one envisioned two devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, and a once-in-a-century pandemic. He further argued that sustainability is key, and that Puerto Rico needs to have its debt level controlled to have a workable government and promote economic development on the island.
Pierluisi also stated that in light of the current conditions, a shift in the Oversight Board’s approach “is imperative,” and discussed the President’s pledge to support a review of the US-appointed entity’s policies and a partnership with the government of Puerto Rico to promote economic grown, renew local infrastructure, and protect essential services.
“While Puerto Rico has made considerable progress with our recovery, there’s still much work to be done. As governor of Puerto Rico, I will continue to fight for equality,” he said.
“The American citizens of Puerto Rico already chose their preferred process for self-determination. Ignoring the will of voters is undemocratic and un-American. The majority rules in our democratic system and the majority in Puerto Rico wants statehood; it is up to Congress now to act,” said Pierluisi.
“While the American Rescue Plan Act addresses the immediate crisis of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Build Back Better Plan will be transforming for our country. This is a bill that will define the meaning of the Biden presidency,” he said.
“We need to get this across the finish line; this bill will not look at red or blue, it will benefit all Americans. President Biden and Vice President Harris have made clear that the American citizens in Puerto Rico deserve to be treated with dignity and respect, and I will hold them to that promise. We need to come together and support this bill that will benefit Americans and bolster our nation’s economy,” the governor concluded.