PROMESA task force seeking to rescue Puerto Rico, but pain will come too, Bill Nelson says
The Congressional Task Force created by PROMESA is looking for options to help Puerto Rico, but as has been the case since 2006, Puerto Ricans are being warned of pain ahead. Despite the approval of the law, and establishment of the Oversight Board, there seems to be no easy way out of the economic crisis.
A bipartisan, bicameral task force in Congress, which includes both Nelson and Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, is overseeing the oversight board, and will recommend reforms to Congress. The task force must report by Dec. 31. Rubio held a similar roundtable in Orlando in October.
“What we are trying to do is a rescue package, and we, the task force, were given the task of coming up with the recommendations,” Nelson said.
Nelson said he hopes to see the first important reforms, “relative relief, uncontroversial measures,” passed in this Congress, through the budget bill. He said he expects it to only be a three-month continuing continuing resolution, but cited it as the best shot.
Among the key points Nelson and Soto said they expect will pass: some sort of increase in Medicaid funding for island residents, seeking to bring them into parity with stateside Medicaid recipients; childcare tax credits for Puerto Ricans; some sort of small business loan program to help entrepreneurs; and some way to address the Zika virus, which now has affected an estimated 20,000 island residents, including 2,500 pregnant women.
Other key issues, including how the territorial government will address $69 billion in debt to bondholders and a huge shortfall in its $43 billion pension system, remain uncertain challenges, and still others drew debate even among the roundtable panelists.
We will know early next year if any reforms have any chance of passage, of if Puerto Rico, like the Oversight Board is telling the government to do, will just have to make do with what it has already and nothing more from Congress.