Ricardo Rossello Nevares asked President Donald Trump to revise FEMA’s decision to suspend the extension that relieved the Puerto Rican government of the co-payment in "protective" initiatives and debris removal efforts as part of the recovery from the disaster caused by Hurricane Maria.
In the letter, Rossello Nevares said that Puerto Rico is still in a emergency response phase, since power has not been restored throughout the island and the grid is highly susceptible to blackouts.
Similarly, he details that there are still 64,895 recovery works to be inspected or completed through the federal initiative Step, which addresses energy and housing issues. A 10 percent contribution by the state government to cover these works would mean an overdraft in the state budget at a time when Puerto Rico is in a deep economic crisis, and faces multiple fiscal control initiatives.
"This is critical for Puerto Rico and, if we don’t receive it, it can be devastating because Puerto Rico is in a fiscal crisis situation," said the governor at a press conference in Florida.
Specifically, the governor's request calls for -at least- an extension of the 100 percent federal contribution for the debris removal costs and initiatives cataloged as "protective" in an emergency such as the power grid restoration.
According to Rossello Nevares, this kind of benefit was extended to Luisiana after hurricane Katrina devastated the city of New Orleans in 2005. Specifically, the federal government covers 100 percent of these costs when a natural disaster is so intense the state government´s resources are insufficient.
"They took it from us, and I asked to have it back (the benefit). Since everything at FEMA is appealable, I asked the US President to grant us that request, at least, for the next few months. Right now, many of the debris removal contractors put the works on hold (when) they knew the federal government was not going to meet that portion of the payment. This has delayed the processes," said the governor.
The governor said that this special arrangement responded specifically to damage on the power grid, debris on the streets and housing destruction.
“These dire conditions still exist for
the people of Puerto Rico, and, in such regard, we request further consideration of our request to continue the 100% Federal cost share for both categories A & B”, said Rossello Nevares in the letter.
FEMA determination to reject the initial request was notified to the governor last August 15.
Yesterday, Congress Democrats Bennie Thompson (Mississippi) and Nydia Velázquez (New York) supported the governor´s request to extend the funding for debris removal and protective measures.
"Over the last year, Puerto Ricans have been working diligently to put their communities back together after Hurricane Maria devastated the entire territory. However, the conditions that merited the 100 percent cost share remain. This funding is essential to allowing Puerto Rico to continue working on re-establishing some of the most basic community necessities, including power restoration, water, critical infrastructure, and debris removal," said Thompson, a spokesperson for the minority in the US House Committee on Homeland Security, and Velázquez in a letter to FEMA
The 100 percent federal funded for the works related to debris removal expired last August 16. Meanwhile, financing for protective initiatives expires on September 15.
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