Puerto Rico asks Congress for $94B

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - INTERNATIONAL -

WASHINGTON — Puerto Ri­can Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello un­veiled a $94.3 bil­lion dis­as­ter re­lief re­quest to Congress on Mon­day, a sum that he said is needed to help the U.S. ter­ri­tory ad­e­quately re­cover from Hur­ri­cane Maria.

Ros­sello also promised that the is­land’s re­cov­ery ef­fort will be the “most trans­par­ent” in U.S. his­tory as the gov­er­nor faces crit­i­cism over award­ing a now-can­celed $300 mil­lion con­tract to a small Mon­tana-based com­pany to help re­build the na­tion’s elec­tric grid. Over half of Puerto Rico is still with­out power 54 days af­ter Hur­ri­cane Maria made land­fall.

The largest chunk of Ros­sello’s re­quest, $31 bil­lion, would go to hous­ing as­sis­tance, with an­other $17.7 bil­lion to re­build the is­land’s power grid and $14.9 bil­lion for health care.

“This is a crit­i­cal step for­ward in the re­build­ing of Puerto Rico, where we’re not only look­ing to re­build as was be­fore but we want to make it much stronger and much more re­silient and make Puerto Rico a model for the rest of the Caribbean,” Ros­sello said.

The $94 bil­lion re­quest will likely be pared down by Congress and the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion, as fis­cally con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans will likely op­pose such a large long-term aid pack­age, as they did af­ter Hur­ri­cane Sandy in 2012.

The pack­age is over $30 bil­lion more than a $61 bil­lion re­lief re­quested by Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey.

Res­i­dent Com­mis­sioner Jen­nifer Gon­za­lez, Puerto Rico’s non­vot­ing mem­ber of Congress, was also present at Mon­day’s press con­fer­ence. She ex­pects Congress to de­vise two more hur­ri­cane re­lief pack­ages be­fore the end of the year, one by Thanks­giv­ing and the other by Christ­mas.

“As it hap­pened with [Hur­ri­cane] Ka­t­rina, they re­ceived sev­eral sup­ple­men­tals [dis­as­ter fund­ing pack­ages] over a 10-year pe­riod,” Gon­za­lez said. “We hope not to go to a 10-year pe­riod; we want to re­build the is­land quickly and faster.”

Gon­za­lez also said that more dis­as­ter funds could come from amend­ments to leg­is­la­tion be­fore the end of the year.

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