Washington - Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González asked acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to hold a meeting with his budget regarding the $600 million in nutrition assistance funds that the U.S. House recommended for Puerto Rico.
González said yesterday that she expects the meeting will take place next week, since she thinks the comments of the OMB describing nutrition assistance funds for Puerto Rico as unnecessary are “outside of the reality”
She said she started phone conversations with the “White House, the OMB and the Senate leadership,” yesterday. González recalled that in 2017, she had strong differences with Mulvaney regarding the $295 million in Medicaid funds that were finally approved.
Last week, the OMB opposed to H.R.268 that proposes $14.17 billion in new appropriations for jurisdictions affected by recent natural disasters. Among the objections, the OMB included the $600 million nutrition assistance funds for Puerto Rico –intended to provide continuity to the $1,27 billion that will lapse in March- and to “language waiving non-Federal cost shares for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands for Hurricanes María and Irma” that is matching requirements from FEMA regarding debris removal and emergency measures.
The White House just expressed the possibility to veto H.R.268 since it includes language to reopen the federal government without having reached an agreement on the $5.7 billion that President Trump is demanding to build the U.S.-México border wall.
The nutrition assistance funds benefit about 279,000 participants on the island and they were granted after Hurricane María. They are not separate from the close to $1.8 billion that Puerto Rico receives annually through the Nutrition Assistance Program.
Last week, Commissioner González said she will leave the presidency of the U.S. Republican Party in Puerto Rico if Trump´s threat to divert recovery funds for Puerto Rico –as well as those of the U.S. Corps of Engineers- to finance the border wall came true and stressed that she achieved those funds.
However, González said that Republican Senator Rick Scott (Florida) had a conversation with Trump and “has information that funds will not be redirected.”
Meanwhile, the House Democrat leadership said they will defend these new appropriations for the island.
“The suffering of our fellow Americans in Puerto Rico has been ignored far too long by the Trump Administration – and now the President will try to block important support for rebuilding efforts, including nutrition assistance for families. This cruelty cannot stand,” posted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi on Twitter.
Charles Schumer (New York), Senate minority leader, said that objecting disaster relief funds for Puerto Rico, 16 months after a hurricane that caused about 3,000 deaths and damage for up to 100 billion is shameful.
Pelosi´s tweet was posted after Governor Ricardo Rosselló’s video message requesting Trump a meeting at the White House so he can so “correct the ill-informed advice and disconcerting notions you are getting on Puerto Rico, particularly on the NAP program.”
Meanwhile, yesterday Debtwire reported that the idea to appoint a federal coordinator to oversee the distribution of reconstruction funds for the island is still alive in the Trump administration.
Back in December, El Nuevo Día reported that federal officials were considering the creation of the position of a federal coordinator –under Homeland Security- to federally support Puerto Rico´s recovery and reconstruction process.
Then, this newspaper could access a draft copy of an executive order, but the issue has remained at staff level. “It is still under discussion,” said a source who originally brought the information last December.