• U.S. loan to Puerto Rico a start, but more aid to come: official

    By Wire News Sources on October 11, 2017

    WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. federal government is working on a long-term plan to help Puerto Rico rebuild after Hurricane Maria tore up the island territory’s power grid and other infrastructure three weeks ago, an administration official said on Wednesday.

    The U.S. House of Representatives is set to vote on Thursday on a disaster relief bill that includes a $4.9 billion loan for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands as part of a $36.5 billion package to help Americans recover from hurricanes and wildfires.

    But the loan is intended to be a short-term measure to help the cash-strapped island territory pay urgent bills, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

    “The Community Disaster Loan cannot and does not address the recovery, rebuilding and future of Puerto Rico, which the administration intends to address with a more long-term solution in concert with the Puerto Rican government, oversight board, court and Congress,” the official said.

    The broader package set for the House vote includes $576.6 million for wildfire efforts, $16 billion for the National Flood Insurance program and a provision enabling low-income Puerto Ricans to receive emergency nutrition assistance.

    Puerto Rico, home to 3.4 million American citizens, is in a particular bind, already grappling with nearly $72 billion in debt before Hurricane Maria – the worst storm in almost a century – hit its shores. Estimates of the cost to its economy range as high as $95 billion.

    Puerto Rico’s Governor Ricardo Rossello has asked for $4.6 billion as a “down payment on hurricane recovery efforts,” including $3.2 billion in block grants.



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