In order to aid Puerto Rico’s recovery, the Biden-Harris Administration has committed to the territory’s revival, unlocking billions of dollars in funding for disaster aid and promoting healthcare and economic assistance programs for residents. Since 2021, the Biden-Harris Administration has assisted in creating a solid foundation for the islands by implementing multiple pieces of legislation, such as the American Rescue Plan (ARP) and the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). The American Rescue Plan will include funds for repairing damaged buildings after earthquakes, better water infrastructure, and providing high-speed internet at affordable prices as of May 13, 2023. The Inflation Reduction Act will be committed to lowering the cost of living for households and businesses, which will help provide an affordable future for residents in Puerto Rico. The Biden-Harris administration has also introduced the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to help provide infrastructure projects across the islands, which can not only provide jobs but also construct roads, public transit, bridges, and airports, being funded over $596.1 million.
To help further the renewal and rebuild the islands, in April 2022, President Biden appointed Deputy Secretary of Commerce Don Graves to serve as the administration’s Puerto Rico Economic Growth Coordinator, assigned to focus on specific projects over the course of 2023, such as development in the workforce, providing energy, rebuilding the economy, and improving the government overall. Along with Graves, White House advisors Susan Rice and Julie Graves hosted Puerto Rico Governor Pedro Pierluisi (NPP, D), along with the members of his cabinet, at the White House in December 2022 to plan the actions of the federal and territorial governments in 2023.
In order to move forward with the new developments and gain a better understanding of the islands’ situation, Deputy Secretary Graves traveled to Puerto Rico in February 2023. During this visit, he announced with Rescue Plan Coordinator Gene Sperling and officials in the Department of the Treasury the approval for a budget of $109 million in funds allowing the Economic Development Bank of Puerto Rico to make loans and provide collateral for businesses. This also included unprecedented relief and lasting investments for residents of the territory, municipalities, and businesses. The islands’ municipal governments will receive $4 billion in the American Rescue Plan and the Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to help respond to the economic and health impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic. With these investments, local governments can maintain necessary services and keep local law enforcement on the job. Another act for the gradual improvement of small businesses, the American Rescue Plan, expands a new version of the Earned Income Tax Credit to adjust for Puerto Rico, which can contribute more benefits for workers by investing in job training. The Biden-Harris administration has committed more than $30 million in funds to protect pension benefits and provide more protection for retirees.
Protection for families in Puerto Rico is a top priority for the Biden-Harris administration, with the American Rescue Plan expanding tax benefits through the Child Tax Credit, ensuring that all families, including those with one child, can benefit. As a result, over 250,000 families can now receive credits, cutting child poverty and improving the lives of many. Along with child benefits, the ARP also provides $250 million in rent assistance with the help of the Emergency Rental Assistance Program, assisting many Puerto Rican households that face the threat of eviction. These funds are also being distributed to childcare programs so they can continue to stay open. Lastly, along with the Biden-Harris Administration, to more swiftly and more diligently recover from natural disasters, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has assigned over $891 million in emergency funds for Puerto Rico, including grants to support families and households. FEMA also contributed to improving and expanding Disaster Recovery Centers in more affected areas by expanding access to shelters. Since Hurricane Fiona, the US Department of Housing and Urban Development has worked towards repairing the fragile power grid by partnering with departments of energy such as EPA. The Biden-Harris administration is committed to countering the threat storms pose to Puerto Rico’s power system by planning for a more renewable, solar-powered energy source. President Biden is committed to assisting the island with the same diligence and focus as he does with the States. With the new recovery funds and government assistance, Puerto Rico and its residents can have a better chance at survival and a chance to rebuild after hardship.