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Puerto Rico Needs $94.4 Billion To Rebuild, Governor Rosselló Tells Washington

Nov. 13, 2017 (EIRNS)—In a press conference today at the offices of the National Governors Association in Washington, Puerto Rican Governor Ricardo Rosselló said that the island needs $94.4 billion to rebuild, following the devastation wreaked by Hurricane Maria. "This is a conservative estimate," he said, "based on similar efforts that have been done in New York, New Jersey and of course in Texas, most recently," Reuters reported.

In a letter to President Trump, Gov. Rosselló said that funds needed for the island’s rebuilding, exceeded the resources of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA’s) disaster relief fund, and associated programs—underscoring once again that without a new Hamiltonian credit institution, and a shift away from Wall Street’s priorities, under current conditions the necessary funding won’t be made available.

The island government’s top priority is $31.1 billion for housing, and $17.8 billion to rebuild a more resilient power grid. But Rosselló enumerated "agriculture, infrastructure, social services, sanitation and education" as in urgent need of funding. According to the Department of Energy, to date, 47.8% of power has been restored to the island.

According to NBC News, on Capitol Hill, legislators have introduced a bill seeking changes to the Stafford Act, which, as now written, specifies that natural disaster financial assistance for critical infrastructure must be aimed only at restoring it to its "pre-disaster mode"—clearly untenable for the island’s outmoded and destroyed power grid. Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez and Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) have introduced a bill that would allow Stafford Act relief funds to be used to build a fully modernized power grid.

Puerto Rican officials are also lobbying Congress to reject a provision in the GOP tax plan, which would impose a 20% import tax on products manufactured in Puerto Rico, claiming absurdly that the island is a "foreign jurisdiction" (only inhabited by 3.4 million American citizens!). Federico de Jesús, a former Deputy Director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, told NBC that if Congress doesn’t make an exception for Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories "they will be putting the final nail in the coffin of the Puerto Rican economy." Hector Ferrer, head of the Popular Democratic Party (PPD) told El Nuevo Día that imposition of the 20% import tax "would be like a second hurricane" hitting the island.