White House, Puerto Rico, Federal Emergency Management Agency, Political Status

White House, Puerto Rico

Biden administration to prioritize Puerto Rico's recovery, not political status

'We don't have jurisdiction on status, but we do have jurisdiction on the billions of dollars that have gone to the island.'

7/22/2021 2:10:00 AM

'We don't have jurisdiction on status, but we do have jurisdiction on the billions of dollars that have gone to the island.'

'We want to spend our energy and focus on doing it right, or at least attempt to do it right, rather than to be bogged down by a debate on the status,' a White House official said.

Story continuesBut when they consider Puerto Rico's ability to withstand future disasters, officials are also thinking about the impacts of the island's decadeslong fiscal crisis, which was triggered when U.S. lawsarbitrarily excluded Puerto Rico from the federal bankruptcy code

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.The move blocked the island from resolving its $72 billion debt crisis through Chapter 9 and prompted Congress to pass the PROMESA law in 2016 to create a federally appointed fiscal board responsible for restructuring the debt. The move has resulted in tough austerity measures.

Sierra-Zorita said the task force's recommended policy priorities include economic development, education and workforce development, and recovery and delivery."Under economic development, that's where you'll see things like the fiscal issues and job growth," she said. headtopics.com

Related:The U.S. territory has unequal access to Medicaid funding. Health Secretary Carlos Mellado says that contributes to the deterioration of the island's health system.In addition, under recovery and delivery, officials will focus on addressing issues limiting Puerto Rico's capacity to manage its crises.

"If you teach the island how to manage these huge amounts of funds and how to deliver these services, you're building capacity. That capacity can be transferred to other areas of government," Sierra-Zorita said. "The notion, to some extent, is to cut the dependency, not because we don't want to help, but because people don't want to be dependent. They want to manage their own affairs, and they want to be resourceful on their own."

Officials say reinstating the task force, which has existed during almost every recent administration expect former President Donald Trump's, was part of Biden's campaign promise to Puerto Ricans.Reactivating the task force "is an expression of that commitment," Sierra-Zorita said.

Under Trump, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Peter Brown was appointed as the White House's special representative for Puerto Rico's disaster recovery, 10 months before Trump's term ended. Read more: Yahoo News »

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