Reps. Soto and Torres are urging Biden to expedite funding for Puerto Rico’s recovery
The Bronx and Central Florida unite to urge Biden to release federal funds to rebuild Puerto Rico
Puerto Rican Democratic U.S. Representatives Darren Soto (FL-09) and Ritchie Torres (NY-15) recently addressed President Joe Biden in a letter calling on him to expedite his promise for a rapid disbursement of funds pledged to Puerto Rico to mitigate long-standing damages caused by Hurricane Maria and subsequent neglect.
Congress has allocated $42.5 billion to mitigate the damage caused by Puerto Rico’s natural disasters, but only approximately one-third — or $14 billion — of the total funds have been distributed. After years, the conditions of its damaged infrastructure remain, and its inhabitants have been forced to endure.
“At more than $100 billion of damages, Hurricane Maria was the third most costly hurricane in U.S. history. Unfortunately the consequences of the widespread damage from the storm remain unresolved to this day,” wrote Soto and Torres.
For years, Puerto Ricans were forced to pay the price of failed leadership. Now more than ever, our brothers and sisters need our help.
For years, Puerto Ricans were forced to pay the price of failed leadership. Now more than ever, our brothers and sisters need our help.@RepRitchie and I are urging @POTUS to expedite the release of federal funds to help Puerto Rico continue its path to recovery pic.twitter.com/33sJNPejFR
— US Rep. Darren Soto (@RepDarrenSoto) January 22, 2021
In an interview on Thursday, Jan. 21 with El Nuevo Dia Puerto Rican Democratic Congresswoman Nydia Velázquez (NY-) said the White House is “aware of the commitments Biden made throughout his campaign, including an order to quickly disburse the funds, revive an interagency task force on the island and promote parity in programs such as Medicaid, Medicare and food assistance.”
But both Soto and Torres believe the situation of Puerto Rico should be addressed immediately, with an executive order dedicated to the island alone.
“The people of Puerto Rico have long awaited the release of these funds. Therefore, we believe it important to expedite the release of federal funds to help Puerto Rico recover from the effects of multiple natural disasters and believe an Executive Order or other executive action is the best option to address these concerns,” their letter continues.
Within the coming days, Biden is expected to sign an order for Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to facilitate the delivery of the funds to Puerto Rico. If done soon enough, as Soto and Torres demand, it would be part of Biden’s first actions in office, which have largely served to undo those of the past four years.
It would fulfill Biden’s promises made over the campaign trail, where he made history by releasing the “Plan for Recovery, Renewal, and Respect for Puerto Rico,” a policy focused on rebuilding Puerto Rico’s infrastructure.
“As President, Biden will create a federal working group for Puerto Rico which will report directly to the President to make sure Puerto Rico has the resources and technical assistance it needs,” the plan says.
It’s highlights include supporting a full recovery and infrastructure reconstruction to modern standards, investing in economic development initiatives, providing relief from debt, and expanding its education and workforce development.
Latino voters supported Biden by “very wide” margins across the board, and even in Florida, it was Puerto Rican communities like those in Osceola County in Central Florida — which Soto Represents — that helped push Biden over the line.
If it were up to Soto and Torres, now, while all eyes are on Biden’s first week of executive actions, is when the “respect” outlined in his plan should be delivered.