It also represents some relief for the endagered Puerto Rican budget now facing the responsability to reform its finances to return to global capital markets and revive the island´s economy.
However, the federal government imposed strict conditions in order to disburse emergency funds to the island. They include the submission of an economic and recovery plan endorsed by the Oversight Board along with monthly reports to Congress and complying with a detailed list of priorities and metrics.
These federal requirements, provided in the bill, bind the local government to the transparent use of funds and its thorough oversight. These are crucial indicators
on the road to recover the trust of the federal government about the Puerto Rican public management.
This new federal aid for recovery may help the Puerto Rican government sharpen its five-year fiscal plan by providing higher precision on the projected federal funds. Accuracy about the figures as well as the model for government reorganization and the budget balance are key elements for the Board to certify the fiscal proposal.
We are grateful to all those who backed the people of Puerto Rico in this heavy task that gave way to the recovery allocation. Efforts made by Resident Commissioner Jennifer Gonzalez and Governor Ricardo Rosselló, who knocked on every single door in Washington, should be remarked.
Democratic minority Senators Charles Schumer, Patrick Leahy and Bill Nelson were key in lobbying for these funds. Also to those lawmakers of Puerto Rico descent, Nydia Velázquez, Luis Gutiérrez and José Serrano who responded to the Puerto Rican call.
So did Darrel Soto during his first year in Congress. In the final stretch of the process, Marco Rubio´s support provided a decisive boost to the bill among the Republican majority.
$11 billion of the $ 15 billion approved are for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program of the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
This will facilitate access to adequate housing to low and moderate income individuals and families, as well as infrastructure projects in municipalities. $ 2 billion is allocated to repair the power grid at a time when 30 percent of the population still lacks this vital service.
The 4,8 billion for Medicaid, which funds Mi Salud (My Health) plan, is a lifeline for more than a million people who depend on that plan for healthcare and medicines. Congress passed the maximum amount Puerto Rico can aspire within the next two years, conditioning part of those funds to compliance with federal statistics and anti-fraud regulations.
The amount does not represent parity with the states but it is a recognition of the island´s healthcare emergency, especially after Hurricane Maria. Up to now, Puerto Rico was awarded with $350 million annually for Medicaid, so these federal additional funds release an important item of the island´s budget. This new scenario improves the conditions for restructuring the public healthcare system to make it sustainable.
These federal funds recently allocated may help Puerto Rico on its road to thorough reforms on infrastructure and healthcare, key areas for shaping our future.