(April 27, 2018 – Washington, D.C.) During the continuation of his work in various cities of the United States, Governor of Puerto Rico Ricardo Rosselló met today in Washington, D.C., with senior federal government officials and congressmen to continue the recovery of Puerto Rico after the impact of Hurricane Maria.
The chief executive met with the secretary of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Ben Carson.
Rosselló said that “we want to take this opportunity to address the issue of informal housing on the Island and thus be able to help those who have property title problems to receive the necessary federal aid in order to rebuild their homes.”
During the meeting with the chief executive, Carson took the opportunity to inquire about the blackouts that have taken place on the Island during the restoration of the electrical system.
The governor commented that, precisely, these blackouts are both a sign of the weakness of the electric system and the need to seek private capital to invest and improve the energy grid.
Rosselló also expressed his gratitude to the secretary of Housing for the allocation of $18.5 billion from the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief (CDBG-DR) program for the recovery of Puerto Rico after the passage of Hurricane Maria, to help repair damaged homes, businesses, and the electric grid.
Likewise, the chief executive discussed with the deputy secretary of HUD, Pamela Patenaude, the process to begin the disbursement of the funds.
The Government of Puerto Rico will present an Plan of Action for the use of the funds, as well as the submission of weekly reports to HUD.
Patenaude emphasized that the Plan to use the funds is an exclusive task of the Government of Puerto Rico, according to the needs of the Island. The role of the federal Government will be that of advisory.
Earlier, the governor met with Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), ranking member of the Ways and Means Committee of the House of Representatives,
who has expressed interest in the reconstruction process of the electric network in Puerto Rico.
In addition, Neal—whose state comprises a high population of Puerto Ricans— said that in each crisis there is an opportunity. Therefore, he is willing to work with the chief executive on the tax issue, to achieve long-term solutions and thus help the youth of Puerto Rico remain on the Island.
The congressman and the governor agreed that the funds allocated for the recovery are an economic injection, but for the short term.
For his part, Rosselló said that after the onslaught of the hurricane, Puerto Rico is a blank canvas where you can develop ideas to innovate in the reconstruction.
He also explained that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) has not worked diligently on the assigned task and has not demonstrated a sense of urgency during the emergency.
The chief executive also established that there is a good working relationship between the Government of Puerto Rico and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). However, there are many bureaucratic processes that need to be amended to speed up the aid.
Later, the governor met with Congressman John Larson (D-CT), Democratic leader of the Ways and Means Social Security Subcommittee.
Like Congressman Neal, Larson expressed his interest in the importance of addressing the tax issue and economic development for the Island.
The chief executive was joined in the meetings by the chief of staff of the Government of Puerto Rico, William Villafañe; the executive director of the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration in Washington, D.C. (PRFAA,) Carlos Mercader; and the deputy director of PRFAA, George Laws.
It is expected that later the chief executive and the officials of the Government of Puerto Rico will hold a meeting with the United States secretary of Energy, Rick Perry.