The claim of the Oversight Board before Congress to approve a package of urgent measures, including an emergency liquidity program and funds to invest in our infrastructure, deserves a solid support in order to adequately deal with the catastrophe caused by Hurricane Maria.
The entity, which has been appointed to lead the Island’s debt restructuring, has also called on Republican and Democratic leaders to extend legislation similar to those approved in the wake of Hurricane Katrina in the United States.
By doing so, the Board has shown sensitivity to the terrible reality that the storm added to the crisis situation, indebtedness, unemployment and economic recession that the Island was already facing before Maria. The new and terrible circumstances demand a new role for the Board, which until recently was only focused on balancing the government coffers and complying with the 10-year fiscal plan. However, the entity proved to be aware of the new scenario by releasing $ 1 billion of the Island's budget for recovery.
Certainly Puerto Rico can not avoid paying its monumental public debt of over $ 70 billion. The administration of Governor Ricardo Rosselló has taken steps to find a solution to meet its obligations and continue operating, but the devastation caused by the hurricane cast a shadow of doubt about the island's ability to share with the federal government recovery costs.
A preliminary estimate puts at $ 95 billion the damage caused by Mary to the island economy. In response, the Board asked Congress to take action on four fronts: low-interest emergency funding, maximum federal aid under emergency programs, parity in federal Medicaid funds, and exemption from the requirement of matching aid funds.
The answer of Congress will be crucial in this historical moment.
Our representative to the legislative body, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González, has been up to the times with her firm work. We recognize her work together with Puerto Rican congress members and the Hispanic caucus, among others, in lobbying for the approval of $ 1 billion of funding to extend the life of Puerto Rico's public health system.
This fund would allow to cushion the reduction of funds approved under Obamacare to expire in 2018. It is therefore important to ensure the inclusion of Puerto Rico when considering critical legislation such as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) project, about matching funds for health insurance for families and children. It is urgent particularly for a population with serious conditions, scarce resources and many of them without safe roof because their houses were damaged or totally destroyed by the hurricane.
The catastrophic level of damage throughout the Island requires these urgent measures of the federal government aimed at avoiding a tragedy of historical proportions with its core in public health. That is why it is encouraging theintention to visit Puerto Rico of Senate Energy and Natural Resources Chairwoman Sen. Lisa Murkowski , who recognizes the importance of the rehabilitation of the electricity grid on the Island, now working only at 7%. To that effect, it is necessary to include the island in the comprehensive and multi-million dollar plan of President Trump to improve the infrastructure of the United States
We also recognize the importance of the proposal of Republican Senator John McCain to legislate a permanent exemption from cabotage laws, which would reduce shipping costs and allow for a more consistent recovery with our economic reality.
The situation of Puerto Rico after the severe impact of the hurricane requires the consideration of these measures, essential for the titanic recovery which, only united, we can achieve.
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