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(Gerald López Cepero)

In the short term, the new federal funds imply that the Mi Salud (My Health) program will not collapse due to lack of liquidity.

They are also a boost to the restoration of the power grid with better technology, and the reconstruction of the rest of the infrastructure damaged by hurricanes Irma and María last September.

And, in economic terms, these new allocations mean the creation of about 27,000 new jobs related to the economic activity that will be generated by the federal investment of at least $ 16 billion for the next few years, said yesterday Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González.

"This is a historic allocation the Island had never received before. The disaster relief package will boost the economy and the creation of jobs and will help lift Puerto Rico up," she said to El Nuevo Día.

The federal investment in Puerto Rico could reach up to $ 30 million, due to new access to funds that the island has, after the US President, Donald Trump, signed the supplementary budget bill approved by Congress.

The boost is temporary, recognized Gonzalez. However, the amount is enough to put the economy which has been depressed since 2006, back on track,  she said.

Now, the most urgent problems fall into the hands of the Puerto Rican government. González noted that the government has to make structural changes and must establish "clear priorities" regarding investments, so that not only the government structure is sustainable, but also to generate  economic growth.

"We have to focus on what the investment will be, development projects,  infrastructure. Investments should be the foundation to attract more economic development," she said.

Meanwhile, efforts in Washington will be refocused to find a long-term solution for the structural insufficiency of funds in Mi Salud (My Health), which is mainly financed by the federal Medicaid program.

There will also be efforts to attract tax benefits that boost manufacturing in Puerto Rico, which suffered significant tax changes with the reform that Congress legislated for the federal Internal Revenue Code.

"This does not end here. We are going to continue working on other initiatives that are in process, such as the long-term solution for Medicaid, tax benefits for businesses on the island and including us in President Trump´s infrastructure package,” she remarked.

Extensive negotiations

Gonzalez said that the budget bill approved was negotiated in Congress until the very last minute. The opposition, she described, was not necessarily about the aid package for Puerto Rico, but because the House Democratic minority wanted to push for an immigration solution for the so-called "dreamers." These are the young people brought as undocumented children to the United States and who, until recently, were protected by a series of provisions created during the Barack Obama´s administration.

González believes that the large number of visits by federal representatives and lawmakers following the hit of hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico helped to raise awareness of the adversities and conditions in which the Island had been left.

However, she argued, that Speaker (Republican) Paul Ryan, and US Senator Marco Rubio were great allies in the efforts to provide funds for Puerto Rico. Previously, Governor Ricardo Rosselló had also mentioned the help of Democratic minority leader in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, and Senator Bill Nelson.

"It was a very hard process. I think it was essential to bring committees chairs to Puerto Rico. I gave them a dossier showing the areas of need. That allowed me to educate members of Congress and achieve a personal commitment,” said Gonzalez.

"We also have to thank President Trump. Sometimes I think that many wanted us to fail in this for political reasons. The truth is that the Republican Party complied," Gonzalez said.


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