Puerto Rico seeks $94B recovery package.
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.”