Puerto Rico seeks $94B re­cov­ery pack­age.

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Alex Daugh­erty McClatchy Washington Bu­reau

WASHINGTON — Puerto Ri­can Gov. Ri­cardo Ros­sello un­veiled a $94.3 bil­lion dis­as­ter re­lief re­quest to Congress on Mon­day, a mas­sive sum that he said will 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 power com­pany to 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, be­cause fis­cally con­ser­va­tive Repub­li­cans will likely op­pose such a mas­sive long-term aid pack­age, as they did af­ter Hur­ri­cane Sandy in 2012. The pack­age is over $30 bil­lion more than the $61 bil­lion re­lief re­quested by Texas Gov. Greg Ab­bott af­ter Hur­ri­cane Har­vey flooded parts of metro Hous­ton and East Texas.

Res­i­dent Com­mis­sioner Jen­nifer Gon­za­lez, Puerto Rico’s non­vot­ing mem­ber of Congress, was also present at Mon­day’s news 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.

The big­gest fed­eral en­tity that Puerto Rico is re­quest­ing fund­ing from, the Depart­ment of Hous­ing and Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant Pro­gram, was once on the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion’s chop­ping block. Puerto Rico is re­quest­ing $46 bil­lion from the agency.

Ros­sello, a Demo­crat, and Gon­za­lez, a Repub­li­can, both sup­port Puerto Ri­can state­hood, though they said dis­as­ter re­cov­ery re­mains their main pri­or­ity dur­ing up­com­ing dis­cus­sions with the White House and con­gres­sional lead­er­ship.

“You need to treat 3.4 mil­lion Amer­i­can cit­i­zens equally,” Gon­za­lez said. “I will be push­ing for state­hood; we both ran on that plat­form. For me, state­hood is equal­ity, and I will be push­ing for that equal­ity.”

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