One of the things that makes it difficult to achieve statehood is ignorance. We can see this historically, when people in the East thought Arizona was a dangerous and inhospitable place filled with desperados or that Hawaii was overrun by communists. We certainly see if with Puerto Rico.
One recent example is the idea that the federal government gave Puerto Rico huge amounts of money, which was not used for post-hurricane recovery. We see articles in mainstream news as well as conversations in social media saying that Puerto Rico hasn’t spent any of the funding the Island received.
Sometimes the implication is that the government of Puerto Rico is full of individuals lining their pockets instead of fixing the problems.
What happened with the funding?
Congress did indeed allocate a lot of money for restoration in Puerto Rico. By and large, those funds did not reach the people who needed them. While there were a lot of moving parts in the situation, there were two very big reasons that this happened:
- Special additional regulations and conditions were imposed on Puerto Rico, apparently out of fear of corruption in the government. Or possibly just stereotypes and ignorance.
- Municipalities were expected to pay up front and then get partial reimbursements later. In most cases, there was not enough cash on hand to take this approach. With bankruptcy proceedings and austerity measures in place, the Island couldn’t get credit to take these steps, either.
These are not controversial ideas, but they are not being widely reported. Many people in the states have not idea about either of these facts. They have been hearing that Puerto Rico received extensive funding and didn’t use it.
Hurricane Fiona should be different
One enormous difference this time around is that President Biden made a major disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on September 21, 2022,. Under this declaration, the Island received federal funding for debris removal and emergency protective measures, including direct federal assistance, with 100% of the cost covered but the federal government for 30 days.
After Hurricane Maria, repairs were started but stalled because the government didn’t have the funds to make the up-front investments. In some cases, the repairs were not even started because the government simply didn’t have the money and could not get it.
After Hurricane Fiona, that is not happening.
President Biden has extended the 100% coverage for another 30 days.
This is a simple, common sense approach that should help with Puerto Rico’s recovery.
Governor Pierluisi and Rep. Jenniffer Conzalez-Colon have made specific requests for federal help in restoring the Island after the damage of both Hurricanes Maria and Fiona. Other members of Congress have also made such requests.
If your congressional reps have not yet supported Puerto Rico, either for disaster support or to pass HR8393 and do away with the colonial status that has led to these problems, they may just not know any better. They are busy people with constituencies of their own to take care of. If they don’t understand the situation in Puerto Rico, or they don’t feel it’s any of their business, they will not take the necessary action.
Please help spread the word! Contact your congressional reps and ask your friends and family, especially those living in the states, to do the same.