Puerto Rico’s November 27-December 3, 2017 political week in tweets

by | Dec 4, 2017 | News Week in Tweets | Comments

TAX REFORM BILL PASSED, WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR PUERTO RICO?

Last week, the new tax bill passed through the Senate. The vote was 51 in favor and 49 against with Senator Bob Corker being the only Republican to vote against it. The new reform would lower tax rates for individuals through 2025 and cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent. But this is not the part that bothers Puerto Rico in the current circumstances. A part of the reform bill would withhold all new taxes on foreign companies which can become a fatal blow to the economy of the islands. Currently, the bill is going through harmonization process in the conference committee and the authorities of Puerto Rico hope to include amendments that exclude or reduce the effect on Puerto Rico of the new taxes.

IN FACT, THE REFORM CAN FALL ON PUERTO RICO AS A “SECOND MARIA”

The new tax reform can have similar devastating impact on the islands not in terms of the destroyed infrastructure but of the loss of businesses and further migration to the US mainland. With its current economic crisis, over $70 billion in debt, prolonged restoration after Hurricane Maria, Puerto Rico cannot sustain another catastrophe. Yet, the part of the tax reform intended to encourage US companies to move overseas operations back to the United States and prevent further offshoring is exactly another catastrophe Puerto Rico is facing if there are no amendments made.

BATTLE WITH PREPA ENDS IN THE RESIGNATION OF PREPA DIRECTOR

Last week, PREPA executive director Ricardo Ramos submitted his letter of resignation to the Governor’s Office after his testimony before the Senate Energy and Natural Resource Committee over the controversial contract he approved with a small Montana-based Whitefish company. “This designation will begin the process of evaluating the best available candidates, from both inside and outside Puerto Rico, in order to go ahead and name a permanent executive director for PREPA”, Governor Rosselló said.

The mayor of San Juan approved of his resignation.

MOREOVER, THERE SEEMS TO BE ANOTHER CONTROVERSY, NOW SURROUNDING A FEMA CONTRACT

Bronze Star LLC, a newly created Florida company, managed to win more than $30 million in contracts from the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide emergency tarps and plastic sheeting for Puerto Rico repair works. However, it never delivered those supplies, which still remain in demand by the islanders after Hurricane Maria. FEMA then terminated the contracts, without any payments, and re-started the process this month. So, it is not clear how FEMA investigated Bronze Star’s ability to fulfill the contracts and how the company eventually won the contracts.

HURRICANE MARIA CONTINUES TO AFFECT MENTAL HEALTH OF THE ISLANDERS

Because of the prolonged restoration process in Puerto Rico, it is still possible that the symptoms of post traumatic stress may continue to affect the islanders, and, that some people will go undiagnosed. The islands still struggle with the lack of electricity, drinking water problems and deepening economic crisis. A lot of people are still isolated from family members and friends. Many have lost their jobs due to the hurricane and are facing possible migration to the US mainland. Facing these and all the other issues, people are more prone to developing PTSD. In this situation, Puerto Rico must include mental health in their disaster preparations.

CATHOLIC CHURCH AND HURRICANE RELIEF AID

Next month, as a gesture of solidarity with Puerto Ricans and at the request of Pope Francis, Cardinal Cupich will visit the islands. Catholic Church has already been involved in relief aid efforts after the hurricanes. Earlier this month, Catholic Extension announced that it had donated more than $365,000 to locations in Texas, the US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.