FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: September 9, 2019
BILL DE BLASIO CONCLUDES PUERTO RICO TRIP BY ANNOUNCING COMPREHENSIVE PLAN TO REBUILD AND REVITALIZE THE ISLAND
New Plan Would Fully Fund Hurricane Maria Recovery, Take Steps to Reduce Public Debt and Encourage the Creation of Good-Paying Jobs for Working People in Puerto Rico
NEW YORK—Bill de Blasio today unveiled a comprehensive plan to restore and revitalize Puerto Rico during a speech at SEIU Local 1996 in San Juan. The speech came at the end of a full day of events on the island, including a tour of a neighborhood in San Juan particularly affected by Hurricane Maria and meetings with elected officials, union leaders and education employees.
“Every passing month in the two years since Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico makes it clearer that Washington has forgotten about this island and the three million American citizens who call it home,” said Bill de Blasio. “More Puerto Ricans call New York City home than anywhere outside of the island itself, and as its Mayor, I know they’re counting on the federal government to keep its promises to the Puerto Rican people. As president, I’ll make sure Puerto Rico has the resources it needs to rebuild from the storm and revitalize its economy.”
Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico two years ago this month, and the effects of its devastation are still clear. But while Congress has quickly stepped in elsewhere to provide additional funding for states recovering from natural disasters, it has allowed the Puerto Rican recovery effort to languish. The Puerto Rican government has estimated that recovery efforts will cost $139 billion, but the federal government has only allocated $41 billion of that funding – and only $11 billion has been spent.
Puerto Rico’s struggles, however, far predate the hurricane. Maria compounded the problems created by years of economic mismanagement and policies that put the interests of multinational corporations before those of working people in Puerto Rico. Before the storm, the island still faced crumbling infrastructure, a struggling economy, and crippling public debt.
Mayor de Blasio’s Puerto Rico policy is a multi-part, comprehensive plan that would address both disaster relief and the long-term issues the island faces:
Recovery: the de Blasio plan calls for the immediate release of the next tranche of funding from the Department of Housing and Urban Development currently being held in limbo by the Trump Administration. It also would promise the full $139 billion the Puerto Rican government has said is necessary to rebuild over 10 years. So that the Puerto Rican people, not Washington bureaucrats, can oversee the rebuilding effort, de Blasio’s plan calls for the creation of a Relief Effort Coordinating Committee made up of trusted civic leaders from key sectors of society to oversee and manage the recovery, ensuring dollars are spent effectively and where they are most needed.
Resilience: As global warming becomes a reality and extreme weather events become more common, the entire country, including Puerto Rico, must be more prepared for disasters. Studies have shown that every dollar invested in resiliency efforts saves $6 in reduced emergency response costs – yet between 2005 and 2014, the federal government spent $277 billion on disaster recovery and just $600 million on its primary resilience effort. The de Blasio plan would end that lack of foresight by creating a White House Office of Resilience to plan a national strategy and coordinate resilience efforts between agencies. It would invest $25 billion over five years to revamp the island’s electrical grid with an emphasis on renewable energy, restore natural infrastructure and wetlands, and upgrade utility infrastructure.
Relief: Federal policies have produced economic discrimination against Puerto Rico that has led to crushing public debt that has stifled the island’s economy and put corporate bondholders before Puerto Ricans. The de Blasio plan calls for an independent audit of remaining debts, eliminating debts that the process determines to be illegal. The plan would also provide the funding necessary to ensure ordinary Puerto Ricans’ retirement savings are not endangered.
Revitalization: In order to build a brighter future for Puerto Rico, the history of economic colonialism that has allowed multinational corporations to achieve massive profits while ordinary Puerto Ricans live in poverty must end. The de Blasio plan would provide new federal tax incentives for employers who create jobs in Puerto Rico with strong workplace standards. His plan would also restructure existing programs like Opportunity Zones to close loopholes that allow wealthy real estate developers the ability to make millions of dollars without creating any new jobs. Lastly, it would also establish an immediate moratorium on the privatization of additional Puerto Rican public assets.
As Mayor of New York City, Bill de Blasio brings a unique perspective to the issues facing Puerto Rico. The most diverse big city in the country, New York is home to 700,000 Puerto Ricans—more than anywhere else off of the island. He has visited Puerto Rico countless times, both during his tenure as Mayor and before.
To see the de Blasio Puerto Rico plan in its entirety, go to billdeblasio.com/puertorico.