Washington, DC – U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand announced new legislation, the Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands Equitable Rebuild Act of 2017, to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild after Hurricanes Irma and Maria. The bill would provide $154.4 billion in recovery and rebuilding funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands across several sectors, including the energy grid, transportation and water infrastructure, agriculture, housing, health care, and economic development. The legislation would help to address systemic challenges that make rebuilding on the islands especially difficult.
“The people of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands suffered one of the worst disasters our country has ever experienced yet Congress has done the minimum expected of us to help our fellow citizens recover from these storms. Congress must rise to the occasion and implement this new Marshall Plan to help Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands rebuild and recover,” said Senator Gillibrand. “We must all pledge to stand with these families until the islands are rebuilt and fully back on their feet.”
More than two months after Hurricanes Irma and Maria, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands remain devastated. More than half of Puerto Rico is still without power. In both territories, clean drinking water is difficult if not impossible to find in many areas, and thousands of people are still living in temporary shelters.
The legislation would provide funding for the federal government to immediately address these crises by mobilizing all necessary resources and assets to rebuild homes and businesses, restore power, rebuild damaged infrastructure, and provide clean drinking water and food, safe shelter, and access to health care. It would do so without forcing the territories to take on more debt.
This comprehensive Marshall-style recovery plan would do the following:
- Provide $154.4 billion in recovery and rebuilding funding for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands across various sectors, including the energy grid, transportation and water infrastructure, agriculture, housing, health care, and economic development programs.
- Make clear that Congress believes that Puerto Rico’s debt needs to be eliminated, provide short-term liquidity funding for day-to-day government expenses, and prevent the privatization of public institutions in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. It also would reject the House Republicans’ plan to place a 20 percent excise tax on the territories.
- Provide $46 billion for Community Development Block Grant Disaster Relief grants for rebuilding homes and encouraging economic development, and $2.73 billion for Small Business Disaster Loans. This would include worker protections like minimum wage and overtime and would require FEMA to use local workers in the recovery effort.
- Provide parity for Medicaid and Medicare for the territories by eliminating the cap on general Medicaid funding and ending the statutory cap on overall funding for Medicaid in the territories beginning in FY 2019. The legislation would also eliminate the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) limitation for the territories and would eliminate the statutory 55 percent limit on federal matching for Medicaid in the territories beginning in FY 2019.
- Provide for equitable treatment for residents of Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands with respect to the earned income tax credit and the child tax credit.
- Extend the authority to waive or modify certain Medicaid requirements to all territories effective October 1, 2018, and prohibit the use of a waiver to reduce or eliminate Medicaid funding to cover the costs of wraparound services or limit access to the child health component of Medicaid.
- Provide $3.63 billion in funding for the Army Corps and prioritize the dredging of Caño Martín Peña.
- Provide grants for local agriculture and food production and parity for the territories’ participation in the SNAP program.
A copy of the legislation text can be found here.