Puerto Rico’s private sector has a one-month window — between Sept. 6 and Oct. 1 — to deliver their proposals to the Congressional Task Force on Puerto Rico to spur economic development initiatives for the island, former Republican Congressman Jerry Weller, said Tuesday.
The group created by the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management and Economic Stability (PROMESA) Act will had its first meeting Wednesday to establish the procedures and timetable to carry out their duties through Dec. 31, he said. Staffers for the eight members of Congress appointed to the group, not the lawmakers themselves, will be present, this media outlet learned.
Weller, who lobbied in Congress with members of the Puerto Rico Private Sector Coalition as the Act was being drafted, said the island can not let down its guard in Washington D.C., as the economic development platform for the island is drafted.
“My recommendation for all of us is, members of the Private Sector Coalition must come together on a united agenda under their new leaderships as quickly as possible, while keeping the message simple,” he said during a forum hosted Tuesday by the group.
“We need to have a specific legislative initiative that lawmakers can embrace, advocate and enact,” Weller said.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch — who chairs the task force — Rep. Tom MacArthur of New Jersey; Rep. Sean Duffy of Wisconsin; Rep. Nydia Velazquez of New York; Pedro Pierluisi, Puerto Rico’s congressional member; and Senators Marco Rubio of Florida; Bob Menendez of New Jersey and Bill Nelson of Florida, comprise the group.
The Task Force is required to produce a report that describes “impediments in current federal law and programs to economic growth in Puerto Rico,” including “equitable access to federal health care programs,” Pierluisi said upon being appointed to the group in July.
The Task Force 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.
Prior to release of the final report, the Task Force must provide a status update between Sept. 1 and Sept. 15 that includes a discussion of matters that Hatch deems urgent for consideration by Congress. That status update deadline falls right after lawmakers come back from summer recess on Sept. 6.
Congress will recess again in October before the elections, after which it will reconvene for what Weller said will be mostly a “lame duck” session. However, Task Force members are still expected to follow through with their work on Puerto Rico.