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The fact that the House Democratic majority expressed their commitment to diligently address Puerto Rican affairs allows us to start the new year hoping to see a sustainable reconstruction in the upcoming months.

We welcome both Representatives and Senators of the new Congress sworn in today. We urge both Chambers to promptly address those measures that will bring justice and welfare to US citizens on the island.

The new chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources Raúl Grijalva has announced his intention to bring Congress members to Puerto Rico in February. He plans the delegation to meet with government officials, community groups and the private sector before touring the island to survey first-hand the most urgent local needs.

This is a crucial opportunity for participation. It is up to all local sectors to take advantage of it with generosity and closing ranks for the good of the island.

Now that differences with the President have stopped the federal budget bill, there is still a possibility to include initiatives that will provide a permanent solution to finance the health care system through Medicaid. Introducing a bill to adjust Medicare Advantage reimbursement formula is also on the agenda. This bill has the potential to provide the island with an additional $ 1 billion, half of which would benefit health service providers with a multiplier effect on the economy.

We trust that other social justice measures may be addressed as well. Among them, a special $ 600 million allocation in nutrition assistance funds and full access to the federal Child Tax Credit to benefit thousands of Puerto Rican families living in poverty.

A vital part of the contribution that Congress can make is to accept the priorities in the reconstruction agenda set by Governor Ricardo Rosselló for 2019. Among those priorities: the transformation of the power grid, which is necessary to lower energy costs. It is important to build cutting edge infrastructure, which includes road safety with new traffic lights and better routes.

In this effort, it is essential that Congress addresses the exemption the island requested to mitigate the cost of the works after the 2017 disaster. The flow of funds will push the battered infrastructure revitalization.

Meanwhile, the local administration has requested the approval of tax measures that will allow the island to become a competitive investment destination, which will create quality jobs. This would encourage the return of many professionals to the island.

At the same time, part of the agenda is to generate a special rate for foreign-controlled corporations and an incentive for investment in tourism projects. Exempting the island from cabotage law limitations, at least in the energy line, is fundamental.

The collaboration of Congress is decisive for these purposes. Puerto Rico needs every  ally, among them, House veteran leader Nancy Pelosi and Grijalva. The group includes lawmakers of Puerto Rican descent, Nydia Velázquez, José Serrano, Darren Soto and newly-elected Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. In addition to representing the best interests of their districts, they have reiterated their moral ties with the island.

The 116th Congress opens today with the promise to move justice measures for its disadvantaged citizens, US citizens in Puerto Rico see a light on the road to developing prosperity. We hope that the work of the new Congress will be up to the challenge, and that our island will respond with transparency and accountability.


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