Congress Continues to Fail Puerto Rico
December 22, 2017 (New York, NY) In response to the emergency disaster supplemental package passed by the House of Representatives yesterday evening, the Hispanic Federation’s President José Calderón issued the following statement:
This week the United States Congress has all but abandoned the people of Puerto Rico. The much-celebrated Tax Bill sent by Republican leaders to the White House places an onerous tax on Puerto Rico at the moment when the island needs as much economic stimulus as possible. And last night, as part of a deeply flawed supplemental disaster recovery assistance package, Congress failed to provide the funding Puerto Rico desperately needs to rebuild in the aftermath of Hurricane Maria. Despite a request from Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Roselló for $94 billion in funding for the island, the House of Representatives passed a grossly insufficient aid package of $81 billion to be spread over recovery efforts in Florida, Texas, California and Puerto Rico. As Congressional Members Nydia Velazquez and Jose Serrano said last evening, “if history is any guide, we can expect that the bulk of that money will not reach Puerto Rico, but the other disaster-stricken areas.”
Moreover, the bill requires the island to accept cost-sharing requirements with the federal government and pay major costs related to relief and recovery. This is something that Congress knows all too well Puerto Rico can’t afford given the depth of the economic crisis on the island.
Beyond failing to provide the funding necessary to rebuild the island and set it on the path of economic sustainability and success, we were deeply troubled by the unwillingness of Congressional leaders to address the Medicaid funding parity issue which is at the heart of the island’s quickly deteriorating health care system. Failure to pay doctors and hospitals on par with their mainland colleagues is having, and will increasingly have, a terrible impact on the quality of care provided to Puerto Rican families and children. What’s more, failure to provide necessary funding for the Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) Program jeopardizes the lives of thousands of Puerto Rican children by limiting their access to food.
At every single turn thus far, Congress has failed to do its job in caring for the people of Puerto Rico. Like many millions of Americans, we will not be silent in the face of this outrage. Hispanic Federation will continue to work with its community partners on both the island and the U.S. mainland – and with its allies in Washington - to demand justice for Puerto Rico. We will neither forgive nor forget a less than full-fledged response from Congress that provides the people of Puerto Rico with the support they need for a complete recovery.