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P.R. receives $16B in federal funds for recovery efforts

From left: Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González and Gov. Rosselló.

Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló and Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González announced an allocation of $16 billion in federal funds for the recovery of the island after Hurricane María.

This appropriation is part of a budget legislation approved by the U.S. Congress and signed Friday by President Donald Trump.

“These funds will allow us to advance the recovery of Puerto Rico after the passage of hurricanes Irma and María. The work carried out in Washington — together with González — was able to deliver the message of the urgency of an allocation of funds that meets the needs of the Island,” Rosselló said.

In addition to the direct $16 billion, Puerto Rico is also eligible to participate in other programs that could increase the amount of aid to $45 billion.

“At dawn today, Congress approved an unprecedented measure in the history of Puerto Rico, which gives us access to more than $47 billion to improve our infrastructure, strengthen our communities, and address the needs of our people,” González said.

“We managed to comply with several of my most fundamental programmatic commitments, such as addressing the fiscal cliff of the Medicaid program. The unprecedented allocation of $4.9 billion that we obtained today for Medicaid will fully fund the ‘Mi Salud’ program for the next two years without requiring the government of Puerto Rico to pair a single cent,” she added.

The governor said “the efforts carried out by our administration and the resident commissioner paid off. Now we cannot rest until the American citizens in Puerto Rico receive equal and fair treatment in the allocation of Medicaid funds.”

Likewise, $11 billion have been allocated to the Community Development Fund to repair homes, support local businesses, and rebuild infrastructure while mitigating future risks. Of these, $2 billion will be set aside for the restoration and improvements of the power grid.

Additionally, $1.37 billion were approved for the Emergency Relief Program and $150 million provided to the Direct Loan Program to cover the cost of Puerto Rico’s federal cost share requirements.

Of the $17.4 billion approved for the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), about $15 billion will be prioritized for the construction of flood control works in all affected states and territories.

This includes channeling, dredging, dams, and pending works.

The legislation also calls for the federal government to cover the full expense of all repair, rehabilitation, study, design, and construction of USACE projects in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency will provide Puerto Rico access to previously appropriated State Revolving Fund money to help rebuild the island’s clean water and drinking water systems.

The Department of Labor will receive $30.9 million for the rehabilitation and repair of the Job Corps Centers in Puerto Rico.

Likewise, the Department of Defense will assume 100 percent of the total cost of construction (including the cost of architectural, engineering, and design services) for the acquisition, construction, expansion, rehabilitation, or conversion of the Puerto Rico Army National Guard’s Arroyo Readiness Center.

The Army National Guard will receive $519.3 million to replace heavily damaged facilities at multiple sites throughout Puerto Rico and the USVI. Additionally, the Puerto Rico National Cemetery will get part of $4.1 million to repair damages.

Funding is also provided to compensate for reduced collections for the Puerto Rico Trust Fund and the USVI Deposit Fund due to port damage and a decline in trade resulting from recent hurricanes. $45 million will be allocated to repair and restore the San Juan Customs House, improve its functionality, and terminate costly temporary leases.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement will get $64 million to repair facilities in Puerto Rico, the USVI, Texas, and Florida that sustained water damage because of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and María.

Rum tax extended through 2022
It was also announced that there will be an extension of the rum cover-over until fiscal year 2022, resulting in hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue for Puerto Rico and the USVI.

It was reported that the Emergency Relief Program of the Federal Highway Administration will receive $1.37 billion. Puerto Rico is provided 1 percent federal cost share for damages resulting from Hurricanes Irma and María for fiscal year 2018-2019. It currently stands at 80 percent.

Through the National Science Foundation, the Arecibo Observatory will get $16 million to repair the radiotelescope. $14 million will be added to Puerto Rico for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

The funds approved today are in addition to the $4.9 billion already allocated by the federal Congress under the Community Disaster Loan (CDL) program and the $1.27 billion for the Nutritional Assistance.

The joint work by the governor and the resident commissioner and the entire team have achieved two packages with an impact for Puerto Rico that could represent more than $35 billion for the economy of the Island and the municipalities.

“Although these approved funds are a step in the right direction, it is very important to continue the pressure on the federal Congress and capital to do justice to the American citizens living in Puerto Rico. I would like to thank the resident commissioner for her great work and the members of Congress who voted in favor of the recovery of Puerto Rico,” said Rosselló.

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

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